Can I Get Pregnant If We Don't Have Sexual Intercourse?

Most Likely Not, but It Is Technically Possible

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According to the American Pregnancy Association, while it is "extremely unlikely" for a woman to get pregnant without penetration, it is "technically possible."

How Pregnancy Happens

Pregnancy naturally occurs when sperm cells from a man's semen enter a woman's vagina and then travel through her cervix and uterus to the fallopian tubes, where an egg is fertilized.

Pre-menopausal women release an egg every month from an ovary (called ovulation).

The average male's ejaculate typically contains anywhere from around 40 up to 80 million sperm cells and only one sperm cell needs to fertilize an egg.

All said, while rare and very unlikely, if any of your partner's sperm gets into your vagina, you can still technically get pregnant.

Additionally, it's still up in the air whether pre-ejaculate (the liquid produced before ejaculation) can cause pregnancy. While one study found that pre-ejaculate does not contain any sperm, the American Pregnancy Association states it's still a possibility, albeit a rare one.

Bottom Line

The risk of getting pregnant without penetration is extremely low. Nevertheless, doing everything but intercourse is not necessarily a fail-proof method of birth control.

How You Can Tell If You Are Pregnant

A pregnancy test is the best way to tell if you are pregnant or not, though you must wait until you miss your period in order to get the most accurate results. You can purchase an at-home pregnancy test from your local convenience store. If this yields a positive result, call your doctor to schedule an in-office pregnancy test, conducted via a blood test.

How to Best Protect Yourself From Pregnancy

If you want to avoid getting pregnant, it's important to find a method of birth control. There are many options available to you.

Birth Control Options

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) are one of the most common methods of birth control for women. Forms of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), such as the intrauterine device (IUD), an injection, or an implant, are also potential options. Because they remove the possibility of user error, they are considered the most effective form of birth control beyond abstinence. There are also foams, patches, diaphragms, and more.

Choosing a Birth Control Option

When choosing a birth control method, there are several factors that are helpful for you to consider. Some birth control options are more effective than others, and no method is 100% effective. Lifestyle and personal factors may also come into play. Part of choosing a birth control method is finding one you feel comfortable with.

Be sure to ask your midwife, doctor, or local health department for advice on the method that is best for you. 

Use a Barrier Method

You should also use a barrier method (such as a male or female condom) alongside any other form of birth control, as a means of protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

A Word From Verywell

Do not feel alone if you find yourself seeking answers to questions about sex and pregnancy. Educating yourself and debunking misconceptions is key to optimizing your health and preventing an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection.

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  1. American Pregnancy Association. Can You Get Pregnant With Precum?

  2. Barlow PW. Why so many sperm cells? Not only a possible means of mitigating the hazards inherent to human reproduction but also an indicator of an exaptation. Commun Integr Biol. 2016 Jul-Aug;9(4):e1204499. doi: 10.1080/19420889.2016.1204499

  3. Zukerman Z, Weiss DB, Orvieto R. Short Communication: Does Preejaculatory Penile Secretion Originating from Cowper's Gland Contain Sperm?J Assist Reprod Genet. 2003 Apr;20(4):157-59. doi: 10.1023/A:1022933320700