Pregnancy without sex: Is it possible?

The answer may not be as obvious as it seems.
Written by
Carolina Mateus
Reviewed by
Last updated on
June 3, 2024
min read
Can You Get Pregnant Without Having Sex? | Kin Fertility
Jump to:
Arrow Down

There's no shortage of misconceptions around the topic of pregnancy.

Just type in the words 'can you get pregnant from' on Google and you'll see the array of questions people have about what can and cannot result in conception.

Something that many of us may have wondered before is: can you get pregnant without having penetrative sex?

If that question has crossed your mind, chances are that you didn't spend that much time dwelling on it and just assumed that the obvious answer was no, pregnancy can't occur without penetration.

Well, the actual, correct answer may not be all that obvious.

In today's article, we'll clarify whether 'virgin pregnancies' can actually happen. We'll also give you some advice on what to do if you think you may be pregnant and different birth control options to consider.

But before we dive into all of that, it's helpful to understand how a pregnancy begins and a bit of the science behind it.

How does conception happen?

Conception happens when sperm swims through the female reproductive system all the way to the fallopian tubes, where it fertilises a healthy egg cell.

Conception can only occur when there is an egg waiting to be fertilised and, as such, it is closely related to your menstrual cycle.

In order for the sperm to fertilise an egg, you first need to ovulate — meaning one of your ovaries needs to release an egg. This typically happens 2 weeks before your next period starts and can last 16-32 hours.

Once the sperm and egg meet, they merge to create a single-cell embryo called a zygote, which will go through many cell divisions as it makes its way to the uterus.

After 5-10 days, the embryo (now called a blastocyst) is a growing cluster of around 100 cells, and it attaches itself to your endometrium (the lining of your uterus) where it will continue to develop and grow.

This happens through a process called implantation — the final stage of gestation that signals you are in fact pregnant [1].

Can you get pregnant without having sex?

It may be surprising but yes, you can get pregnant without having penetrative sex — and there are a couple of possible scenarios here:

Splash or virgin pregnancy

A splash or virgin pregnancy refers to conception that happens without penetration.

It may occur, for example, if:

  • Your sexual partner ejaculates really close to the vagina
  • There's semen on his (or your) fingers and they come into contact with your vagina
  • Your sexual partner's erect penis touches your vagina or vulva

Although this is a really rare occurrence, the risk of it happening is higher if you're ovulating (or close to).

During this stage of the menstrual cycle, your cervical mucus becomes thinner and more egg white-like. This happens as a way to facilitate the transport of sperm cells to the egg, so they can go through the conception process we explained before.

The thing is, cervical mucus can flow through the vaginal canal and end up in the vaginal opening.

If his little swimmers — and this includes pre-ejaculate! — come into contact with these fluids at the vaginal opening, they might make their way up the vagina and through the cervix, and end up meeting (and fertilising) the egg.

But again, virgin pregnancies are extremely rare because sperm die very quickly when exposed to air.

Although research on this is very limited, in a survey of over 7000 women, a mere 0.5% reported becoming pregnant without having penetrative sex [2].

Artificial insemination

It's also possible to get pregnant through assisted reproductive technology, particularly in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) — neither of which require sexual intercourse.

IVF is a procedure where the egg and sperm are combined outside of the body, in a laboratory, and the fertilised egg is then inserted into the uterus, in the hopes that it attaches itself to the uterine lining to start a pregnancy.

With IUI, a healthcare provider inserts sperm directly into the uterus, meaning it has already overcome the challenge of getting past the cervix and, as such, the chances of conception are slightly higher.

Debunking common conception myths

While we're on the topic of different ways you can get pregnant, we thought it'd be relevant to touch on a few conception myths you may have heard before and debunk them once and for all:

Can you get pregnant from sitting on a toilet?

No, you don't have to worry about the possibility of getting pregnant from sitting on a toilet seat, because sperm dies within minutes once exposed to air.

Now, hypothetically, if we're talking about fresh semen and it comes into direct contact with your vulva, it could make its way inside. But what's the likelihood of that happening?

Can you get pregnant from a hot tub?

Another no. Sperm can't live in bathwater.

They only survive in hot water for a few seconds (especially if there are chemicals in said water), so it's not possible to get pregnant from free-floating sperm in a hot tub.

In the same vein, you can't get pregnant from swimming in a public pool.

Can sperm go through a layer of clothes?

It's unlikely that sperm can make its way through clothing, so you can't get pregnant from dry sex, or dry humping.

Can you get pregnant from oral sex?

Sperm can't travel from your throat to the fallopian tubes, so no, conception can't occur as a result of oral sex.

Can you get pregnant from anal sex?

Technically, no.

However — and although it isn't possible for sperm to go from the anus to the uterus — there is a chance it may leak out into the vaginal opening, which we know may result in pregnancy.

Although this is unlikely to happen, if you'd rather be safe than sorry, be sure to use a condom when having anal sex.

Can you get pregnant while you're on your period?

This one is a yes.

Sure, your odds are lower, but it is still possible to get pregnant if you have sex while menstruating. If you want to avoid that, you should take proper birth control precautions.

It's also possible to get pregnant right after your period.

In fact, with each day that passes after the first day of your period, your chances of pregnant become higher.

What to do if you think you're pregnant

There are many early symptoms that may indicate a pregnancy.

One of the most common is a missed period. If yours is late for a week or more, it can be a good idea to take an at-home pregnancy test, particularly if you're also experiencing:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tender and swollen breasts
  • Bloating
  • Increased urination
  • Mood swings
  • Spotting (or implantation bleeding)
  • Uterine cramps
  • Food or smell aversions
  • Constipation
  • Nasal congestion

If after taking a pregnancy test you're still not 100% sure whether you are or aren't pregnant, you can book an appointment with your doctor.

They can test your urine for hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, the pregnancy hormone made by your placenta) or perform blood tests or an ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy.

If it turns out you are not pregnant, they can also help you understand why your period is late or why you're experiencing certain symptoms.

Ways to avoid pregnancy

If you know you don't want to get pregnant, there are several birth control options you can consider.

Some you can get over-the-counter, like male condoms and female condoms, both of which prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

There are also contraceptives you can get through a doctor, such as the diaphragm, vaginal ring, IUD, birth control shot, and contraceptive pill.

If you want to give the latter one a try, Kin's pill subscription makes getting birth control pills delivered on time easier than ever.

With this membership, you get free and fast delivery of your contraception 2 weeks before you run out (or earlier, if you prefer) without having to go to the doctor or chemist. Simply complete a digital consult with our health practitioners and you'll have your pill in no time.

Or, there are more permanent solutions.

For women, there's tubal ligation, where a surgeon cuts, clips or removes the fallopian tubes, blocking the egg from ever moving to the uterus.

For men, a vasectomy is a surgery that stops the sperm from travelling through the tubes from the testicles (where the sperm are made) to the penis, meaning the semen your partner ejaculates no longer contains sperm.

For more information on these and other birth control options, check out our guide on how to choose the right contraceptive method for you.

Image credit: Getty Images

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
Articles you might like:
No items found.

All of the tools you need to take your reproductive health into your own hands.