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Do you have to have your period first in order to get pregnant?

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rose5 asks:

Can I get pregnant even though I did not get periods yet?

Heather Corinna replies:

You sure can.

When a woman has her first period, it's because she's also first ovulated. In other words, first ovulation happens before your first period, so when you get your period for the first time, that means you will have also been able to become pregnant in at least the one cycle before.

It's great that you ask that, because a lot of people think it's the other way around, and find out the hard way that it isn't. And for someone who has never had their period before who becomes pregnant before they first get it, it can be easy for that young women to go months before she even knows she got pregnant at all, which can be very problematic, whether she would want to terminate the pregnancy -- since that can only be done in a limits time window, younger pregnant women can miss that window this way -- or remain pregnant and have a baby -- as you can then miss important pre-natal care which is so important for your health and that of a child, especially for very young mothers.

Too, if you're going to be sexually active, period or no period, you also are going to be at risk of sexually transmitted infections, not just pregnancy. It's pretty common for people to be a lot more freaked about the risk of pregnancy than the risk of STIs, or to think that the risk of STIs for younger folks is lower than the risk of pregnancy (it's actually higher). But both of these possible outcomes are smart things to concern yourself with.

In addition, the younger a woman is when she becomes sexually active, the higher her risks tend to be for acquiring certain infections. When young women's cervical cells haven't completed their development -- which actually usually stops in the 20's, but the younger you are, the less developed they will tend to be -- your cervix is more susceptible to picking up infections like HPV, for example. And if you're also not able to get regular sexual healthcare to screen for infections and get treatment if you get one, that gets even more dangerous.

So, if you don't want to be at risk of getting an infection, it's really important to practice safer sex, right at the starting gate, and all the time. Here are some basics for you on how to do that, which very much include the use of condoms: Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To.

Condoms also do double-duty as an effective method of birth control when used properly and consistently (every time, the whole time). But, not everyone is comfortable with just using condoms as their only method of contraception, either because they want another method that's more effective, or in case of goof-ups, and/or because they want a method they don't have to rely on a partner to cooperate with. We've got a great tool to walk you through your own preferences and the types of birth control which are most likely to suit you best here: Birth Control Bingo!

Lastly, if you're of an age where you haven't started menstruating yet, chances are you're very young. Certainly, some women start later than others, but I want to make sure if you are a younger teen that if you're thinking about sexual partnership, you're taking some time for yourself to consider if it's the best choice for you. It can be pretty tough when you are younger to manage risks like pregnancy and STIs, because of a lack of maturity of partners, a lack of assertiveness, a hard time getting the sexual healthcare services you need, or just because those kinds of risks are pretty serious and just plain freak you out.

But there's more to that decision-making than figuring out if pregnancy or infections are a risk, and ones you can manage, too. You want to consider things like what sexual partnership really, truly has to offer you and if it's something you really want to do for yourself, not someone else, if you have the kind of support system you need, if sex is really the right thing for your relationship right now and a whole big pile of other factors.

We have a checklist of all the kinds of things people consider in making those choices you can have a look at for yourself here: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist.

One last thing? If you have already had a kind of sex which presents a risk of pregnancy, and are worried you may be or become pregnant now, I'd encourage you to be proactive. If it has been less than five days from a possible risk and either birth control or a condom wasn't used, or you are worried a method failed, you can obtain emergency contraception from your doctor or clinic to help reduce your risk of pregnancy. If it's past that point in time, then I'd suggest taking a pregnancy test two weeks after the risk if you do not get a period in the interim. In either case, you're also going to want to schedule a visit to a sexual healthcare provider soon to start your sexual healthcare, including tests for sexually transmitted infections, especially if a condom was not used.

Here are a few more links for you to check out:

written 17 Jan 2009 . updated 22 Jan 2014

Information on this site is provided for educational purposes. It is not meant to and cannot substitute for advice or care provided by an in-person medical professional. The information contained herein is not meant to be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or for prescribing any medication. You should always consult your own healthcare provider if you have a health problem or medical condition.