Our helpline pregnancy educators receive thousands of calls and chat each year about a variety of pregnancy myths. Let’s debunk the most frequently asked myths.
Pregnancy Myth #1: Can pregnancy occur if penetration only happens for a few seconds?
Anytime the penis comes into direct contact with the vaginal area, there is the chance of pregnancy. The probability is extremely low, particularly compared to if intercourse with ejaculation took place, but there is still a risk. The transmission of STIs can also happen through any type of skin to skin contact like this.
Pregnancy Myth #2: Can pregnancy occur if a woman and a guy have faux sex or dry sex?
This is when there is no penetration, but there is skin to skin contact of the genital area. Again, anytime the penis and the vaginal area come into contact, there is a slight risk of pregnancy and a risk for STD transmission. All that needs to happen is for seminal fluid to leak inside the vagina.
Pregnancy Myth #3: Can a woman get pregnant from pre-ejaculation (pre-cum)?
Pre-ejaculation is the liquid that seeps out of the penis before ejaculation occurs. This fluid is released from the Cowper’s gland, located at the top of the urethra. The purpose of this fluid is to reduce the acidity in the urethra and provide a lubricant for the sperm that is released once ejaculation occurs. Most men have no control over it and cannot feel it coming out.
There is a lot of conflicting data on whether this fluid contains sperm that can result in pregnancy. Some studies have concluded that it does contain sperm and others have concluded that it does not. Most sources do agree that without definitive confirmation, precautions should still be taken to protect from pregnancy and STI transmission. For information about pre-ejaculation and the risks of pregnancy read this.
Pregnancy Myth #4: Can pregnancy occur if the woman does not have an orgasm?
Yes, pregnancy can occur even if a woman does not have an orgasm. An orgasm is not related to an egg being available for fertilization.
Pregnancy Myth #5: Can sperm travel through clothing or material?
If the clothing was completely saturated with semen and was in direct contact with a woman’s vagina, there is a very slight chance the sperm could enter the vagina, but this is highly unlikely. No conclusive studies give a definite answer on this possibility.
Pregnancy Myth #6: Can a woman get pregnant from having sex in water?
If actual intercourse takes place in any type of water, pregnancy is definitely a possibility. This is because intercourse will allow the sperm to be directly deposited in the vaginal area, and the water on the outside of the body would not interfere with this.
Pregnancy Myth #7: Can pregnancy occur if ejaculation takes place in water?
It is not likely that tiny sperm could travel through the vast area of water that would fill a pool, bathtub, or hot tub to reach the vagina and result in pregnancy. If ejaculation occurred in plain warm water, sperm could survive for a few minutes. If ejaculation occurs in very hot water, or water filled with pool chemicals, bubbles or other substances, sperm would not be able to survive for more than a few seconds. Pregnancy occurring from this is very unlikely and in most cases is not possible at all.
Pregnancy Myth #8: Can pregnancy occur from having anal sex?
Pregnancy cannot occur from the act of anal sex, but because the vaginal opening and the anus are very close together, there is the chance that sperm could leak into the vagina and travel to fertilize an egg. However, this is exceptionally unlikely.
Pregnancy Myth #9: Can pregnancy occur from having oral sex?
If genitals do not come in contact with each other, and semen does not enter the vaginal area, there is no chance of pregnancy.
Pregnancy Myth #10: Can ejaculating numerous times lessen the chance of pregnancy occurring?
The number of times ejaculation takes place can decrease the amount of sperm in each ejaculation, but there are still millions of sperm present. Each ejaculation contains about 2-5 mL of sperm, and each mL can contain from 40 million to 400 million sperm. This means that even in someone who has ejaculated numerous times, the number of sperm can still be in the hundred million. Only one is needed to fertilize an egg.
Pregnancy Myth #11: Is sperm dead once it reaches the air? Does oxygen kill sperm?
No, oxygen does not kill sperm. This is a myth that many people believe, but it is not true! Once the sperm is DRY it is dead and cannot travel to fertilize an egg. Sperm can live for 3-5 days if it is in a warm, moist environment such as the vagina or uterus of a woman. Sperm cannot come back to life once it has dried, even if it is pre-moistened.
I am wondering if I could be pregnant, what do I do next?
You may have just discovered that pregnancy is a possibility in your particular circumstance. Don’t panic; as noted above, in most cases the possibilities of pregnancy are extremely rare. Your next step is to begin watching for early pregnancy symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms and then miss a period, you can take a pregnancy test. You can use an over the counter test or you can contact the helpline at the American Pregnancy Association to locate a testing center in your area: call 1-800-672-2296.
If you are already noticing symptoms or believe you could be pregnant you can take a test. Keep in mind that it is common to get false negatives before a missed period, so even if you are having symptoms or early pregnancy, consider waiting until you miss your period.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Researchers find no sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid. Contracept Technol Update. (1993) (10):154-6.
PMID: 12286905[PubMed-indexed for MEDLINE]
2. Sperm content of the pre-ejaculatory fluid. Hum Fertil (Camb.) (2011)
3. Mayo Clinic