One of the most frequently asked questions teens and young adults ask of TeenHealthFX is “Could I Be Pregnant?” If that is the question you are here to ask, read below to see if the following provides you with the information you need. If not, feel free to write in your own unique question to TeenHealthFX or to check in with your primary care provider, gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist.
If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. A Planned Parenthood health center is a good option if you have concerns about cost or confidentiality issues. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.
What are some of the behaviors/choices/factors that put me most at risk for an unwanted pregnancy?
Having unprotected sex – in other words, vaginal intercourse without the use of a condom or a prescribed method of birth control, such as the birth control pill or birth control shot.
Not taking birth control pills as prescribed, for example missing pills, not taking pills at the same time every day, not starting a new pack of pills on time, not making up missed pills.
Not waiting the prescribed amount of time before having unprotected sex after starting the birth control pill or other method of prescribed birth control.
The condom breaks or falls off during vaginal intercourse.
Using the withdrawal method (also known as “pulling out”).
What do I do if I think I could be pregnant?
Emergency Contraception (EC)
If you are concerned you might be pregnant and you have had sex within the past 5 days, speak to your doctor about emergency contraception (sometimes referred to as the “morning-after pill). Emergency contraception is a safe way to attempt to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, either by taking an emergency contraceptive pill within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex or through the use of a ParaGuard IUD within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex.
Some important points about EC:
EC pills are available at most pharmacies. You can buy them WITHOUT a prescription.
You can use your health insurance prescription card to buy emergency contraception.
Levonorgestrel morning-after pills, such as Plan B, My Way, and Next Choice, all work best when taken quickly after having unprotected sex. They can lower your chances of getting pregnant by 75-89% when taken within 3 days (72 hours). You can take them up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but the longer you wait, the less effective it is.
Ella lowers your chances of getting pregnant by 85% if you take it within 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. It works just as well on day 1 as on day 5.
You can get the ParaGard (copper) IUD inserted up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. It works just as well on day 5 as on day 1, and as long as you leave it in it will be a very effective method of birth control for up to 12 years.
Planned Parenthood health centers and other public health clinics can help you get EC or other types of birth control for free or low-cost. EC pills are also available at most pharmacies and can be purchased without a prescription.
For more detailed information, including detailed cost information and information about the different types of EC, read the Planned Parenthood article, Morning-After Pill (Emergency Contraception).
Taking a pregnancy test
A pregnancy test can tell you if you are pregnant as soon as your period is late. Some can detect pregnancy a few days before a missed period. Although it is possible to get a false negative when taking a pregnancy test prior to your missed period (meaning you take the pregnancy test prior to your missed period, get a negative result, but are actually pregnant). That said, it is best to take a pregnancy test after your period is already late.
You can purchase a urine home pregnancy test from your local drugstore (the cost is usually about $8-$15), or meet with your doctor so that he/she can perform the test for an additional result. FX reminds you that waiting at least a week after a missed period is likely to give the most accurate result. Additionally, urine home pregnancy tests are most accurate when performed in the morning, when urine is most concentrated.
Some consideration about pregnancy tests:
If your pregnancy test is negative and you took it prior to your missed period, you may want to repeat a test after your missed period to be sure about the results or check in with your doctor.
If your pregnancy test is positive, it is important to meet with your doctor so that he/she can conform the results as well as discuss your options with you.
For more information on pregnancy tests, visit the Planned Parenthood article on Pregnancy Testing.
Contact your doctor
Any questions or concerns can always be directed to your primary care physician, gynecologist or adolescent medicine specialist. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center or Planned Parenthood. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.
What are the early signs of pregnancy?
One of the first things you’ll notice if you are pregnant is a missed period. Other early symptoms can also include:
Sore or swollen breasts
While the symptoms listed above can indicate pregnancy, experiencing any of the above does not mean you are definitely pregnant. For one thing, a late or missed period can be attributed to things other than pregnancy. Alternate causes can include:
Not eating enough
A result of taking certain medications, including certain prescription birth control medications
The symptoms listed above could also be a result of where you are in your menstrual cycle or due to other medical or lifestyle factors. In addition, if you are feeling anxious and scared about the possibility of being pregnant, you might be hyper-focused on certain changes in your body – reading into things that might go on at other times but that you weren’t as aware of because you weren’t in a place of being scared about a potential pregnancy.
While something may have happened to give you reason to believe you could be pregnant, and even if you are experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, it does not mean you are definitely pregnant. Before causing yourself too much anxiety and agitation, remember there could be other causes for your symptoms. So do your best to wait to see the results of a pregnancy test or an appointment with your doctor before jumping to conclusions.
Preventing unwanted pregnancies
Education and advanced planning are your best tools in terms of preventing unwanted pregnancies. FX appreciates what a terrifying experience it can be for a teenager or young adult to be facing a possible unwanted pregnancy. So the best thing you can do is take the proper precautions so that hopefully you never find yourself in this position. This includes:
Being educated as to how pregnancy happens.
Being educated about birth control. Doctors generally recommend that sexually active teens and young adults use condoms, as well as a back-up method of birth control such as the birth control pill or birth control shot.
Discussing the best birth control methods for you with your doctor and having a safer sex plan in place before becoming sexually active.
Being educated about emergency contraception.
Remembering that abstinence is the only way to 100% prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If you do not feel you are ready to take on the responsibilities and actions listed above, then seriously consider that you may not yet be ready to become sexually active.
TeenHealthFX invites you to check out our Resources of the Month: Planned Parenthood Resources on Safer Sex where you can find links to information on sexual readiness, myths and facts about sex, how pregnancy happens, birth control, emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, pregnancy options, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) all in one convenient location.
TeenHealthFX hopes this information has helped to answer whatever question you may have about your personal “Could I Be Pregnant?” scenario. However, if you still have questions or concerns, please feel free to write your own question to TeenHealthFX and to check in with a parent/guardian, doctor, school nurse, or any other trusted adult so that you can get the support and guidance you need.