Dear Bundoo: How can I stop a pregnancy?

Can you stop a pregnancy before you’re actually pregnant? One woman is fearful she may be pregnant, and Dr. Jen Lincoln gives her a few options.

Dear Bundoo, 

I have a problem I need help with. I’m 24 years old and have been with my fiancée for two years. We had unprotected sex like a week after my last period, and now I’m worried I might get pregnant. How long does sperm live? My boyfriend says sperm only lives for a day, so we don’t really have anything to worry about, but I’ve read that it can live for 3-5 days. Is there anything I can do to stop getting pregnant now, or is it too late?

—Almost Pregnant

Dear Almost Pregnant,

Most women ovulate, or release an egg, about 14 days after their last period has started. It’s in that time frame that your chances of getting pregnant are highest. Since you had unprotected sex before that, you might be OK, but it’s hard to say not knowing how long your cycles are, how regular your cycles are, and when exactly you ovulated.

Sperm can live for up to 5 days in a woman’s body, so given all this, there is a chance you could become pregnant. If you want to avoid this, the best thing you can do is take what is commonly called the morning after pill. While it won’t do anything if you are already pregnant (that is, it won’t cause an abortion – the way it works is by delaying ovulation), it can decrease your chances of getting pregnant. Over-the-counter options exist, commonly called Plan B. This type works for up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. Another kind of morning after pill (ella) works for up to 120 hours after sex (or 5 days), but a prescription is needed to get this. The Copper IUD can also be used for this purpose for up to 5 days after unprotected sex. If you are interested in any of these latter two methods, talk to your doctor ASAP.

Answered by Jennifer Lincoln, MD, IBCLC, Bundoo OB/GYN

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About Jon VanZile, Bundoo Content Director

Jon VanZile is the Content Director at Bundoo and edits the weekly Dear Bundoo column.


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