The Pregnancy Panic Companion
In the thick of a pregnancy scare? Freaking out? Not sure what to do? We know how scary this can be, and we're here to have your back in it.
Take a few deep breaths (really: do some good, slow breathing, you'll feel better and be able to think more clearly once you do), and have a seat. Based on your unique situation, we'll walk you through your next steps, give you some extra helps, fill you in on some common self-sabotagers, and do our best to help you chill out and pull it together so you can get through a scare without losing your mind and your well-being in the process.
In other words, a period isn't late or missed, because it's not even due for another few days or weeks. Click here for your next steps.
Are you (or a partner or friend's) due for a menstrual period around now, but it's not late yet?
Are you (or a partner or friend) currently experiencing a late or missed menstrual period?
In other words, a menstrual period has not yet arrived and was expected at least five or more days ago. Click here for your next steps.
Do you (or a partner or friend) have irregular periods, so you can't really answer the questions above?
If your (or your partner's) menstrual periods are irregular, or you (or your partner) use a method of contraception that often causes skipped or missed periods, click here for your next steps.
Have you (or a partner or friend) had a menstrual period since the risk you are concerned about?
A menstrual period is happening now or has occurred since the risk you're concerned about, but you're still worried about pregnancy. Click here for your next steps.
Have you (or a partner or friend) had a pregnancy test with a positive (pregnant) result?
Have you (or a partner or friend) had a pregnancy test with a negative (not pregnant) result?
Not sure if you or someone else have/has had a real risk of pregnancy or not?
In order for pregnancy to be a possibility, the kind of contact that has to happen is:
- Direct (with no clothing, at all, covering anyone's genitals) genital-to-genital contact between someone with a penis and someone with a vulva, such as genital intercourse or otherwise rubbing genitals together OR
- Direct contact with ejaculate (semen) and the vulva, vaginal opening or anus.
BUT (and it's a really big one): If either of those kinds of contact did occur, but one or more reliable methods of contraception was used properly, that risk is radically reduced, by a minimum of 70%*, and as much as 99.9%. And even if you used two methods, any two reliable methods at all -- like the pill plus withdrawal, or a condom plus a Depo shot -- only typically, rather than perfectly, you still will only have had about a 10% risk of pregnancy at a maximum.
Scenarios like these are NOT how pregnancy happens:
- Masturbation or mutual masturbation (masturbating in the same space with someone else)
- Being in the same space as someone with a penis and doing things like using their towels, sharing a a toilet, touching their clothing, or sharing a bed to sleep or rest in
- Sitting somewhere where someone did or may have ejaculated
- Taking a shower, bath or swim with someone with a penis
- Thinking about sex or fantasizing
- Kissing, making out or fondling
- Dry humping (rubbing genitals together when one or more people involved have some kind of clothing on that covers the genitals)
- Oral sex or manual sex (fingering or handjobs)
- Contact with pre-ejaculate, but NOT during intercourse or direct genital-to-genital contact
- Touching yourself after you touched someone whose hand has touched their penis
- Having someone with a penis ejaculate on some part of the body other than your genitals, like your buttocks, back or breasts
- Direct genital-to-genital contact or direct contact with ejaculate when you and a partner have the same kinds of genitals (like each of you having a vulva or each of you having a penis)
Situations like these are ways pregnancy can theoretically occur, but where it is not at all likely:
- Rubbing the vulva with hands that have recently touched semen
- Intercourse or other direct genital-to-genital or genital fluid contact where two (or more) reliable methods of contraception were used properly
- Unprotected anal sex without ejaculation
Are pregnancy scares a constant for you, or occurring even when you're not having the kinds of contact that can result in pregnancy in reality?
1) Do you know the facts about how pregnancy happens, and what can and cannot present real risks of pregnancy? If not, you can educate yourself here or here. If you already know the facts, or find that now that you have them, you still feel scared or can't believe them, then this probably isn't about a lack of education about reproduction.
2) Do yourself a solid and take any kind of contact that is freaking you out like this off the table ASAP for now (that you can: for instance, if living in a house with family members who have a penis is freaking you out, you can't very well ask them to leave so you can deal). If you are not in a relationship where you feel you are allowed to have any limits you need with sex of any kind, that's a cue you're not in a healthy relationship or dynamic, or just not yet able to assert yourself enough to manage sexual activity, so may need to get yourself away from that relationship, period. If you are stuck in a panic about this as a result of sexual abuse or assault, seeking out therapeutic support for you to learn to manage your feelings post-trauma will often help.
3) Take some real time -- not hours or a few days, but a week or two or even a few months or more, whatever you need -- to figure out what you need to have these kinds of contact comfortably and without panic. Only engage in that kind of contact again when you CAN have what you need to be comfortable, whether that's two methods of contraception, a different partner or kind of relationship, or counseling or therapy to help you with assertiveness, sexual fear or shame or an anxiety disorder.
4) If none of the above has any big impact on your fears over the next few weeks or months, then it's time to seek out some help from a qualified mental health professional, like a counselor or therapist.
Want more information about pregnancy scares, pregnancy, contraception and making sexual choices you feel comfortable with?
- Pregnancy Scared?
- Human Reproduction: A Seafarer's Guide
- On the Rag: A Guide to Menstruation
- Let's Dial Down Some (Maybe) Ovulation Freakouts
- Chicken Soup for the Pregnancy Symptom Freakout's Soul
- You're Not Pregnant. So, Why Do You Think You Are?
- Peeing on a Stick: All About Pregnancy Tests
- Birth Control Bingo!
- The Buddy System: Effectiveness Rates for Backing Up Your Birth Control With a Second Method
- Have a Little Faith in BC
- Who's Afraid of Sperm Cells?
- Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist
- Risky Business: Learning to Consider Risk and Make Sound Sexual Choices
- Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast
Here's some information from other credible sources:
- Can I Get Pregnant If...? (Options for Sexual Health)
- Could I be Pregnant? (Teen Health Source)
- How Pregnancy Happens (Planned Parenthood)
- Am I Pregnant? (Brook)
*Effectiveness rates for methods of contraception are figured for one full year of use. Figures presented here and elsewhere about effectiveness, with the exception of emergency contraception methods, present effectiveness rates over one full year of use, not per use or per day.