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How does someone get pregnant?

For a someone to get pregnant, pre-ejaculate or ejaculate (also called pre-cum, semen or cum) must find its way into or onto the vagina. Ejaculate (semen) is made up of seminal fluid and hundreds of millions of sperm. We've broken down what happens next in the following basic steps. 

  • The sperm swim through the cervix and uterus into the fallopian tubes.
  • If the person has recently ovulated and an egg is present, the sperm can join with the egg causing fertilization. Sperm can live in the body up to seven days, which means that if the person ovulates within a week of having sex - there's still a chance for pregnancy.
  • A fertilized egg forms a zygote. The zygote is a cluster of cells that continues to divide and multiply as it travels along the fallopian tube into the uterus.
  • When it reaches the uterus (at this point it's called a blastocyst) it attaches to the nutrient rich lining of the uterus that has been developing. This process is called implantation.
  • Once implantation happens, the person is medically pregnant and the mass of cells is called an embryo and then later, it is referred to as a fetus. 
  • If the egg is not fertilized, or the fertilized egg doesn't implant, the egg dies and the person sheds the lining of their uterus, which is what is happening each month during a period


Vaginal sex is the primary cause of pregnancy. But, any activities that allow pre-cum or cum to make its way into or onto the vagina can also cause pregnancy. 


What won’t cause pregnancy?

  • Touching
  • Kissing
  • Hugging
  • Oral sex
  • Masturbation
  • Any activities where pre-cum or cum are not near the vagina


  • Missed period
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Pregnancy tests:

  • Home pregnancy tests are available in stores without a prescription
  • They are very accurate
  • If the first test is negative, but you are still experiencing symptoms, take another test
  • If the results are positive, go see a doctor to confirm the test and get a physical examination.  Find a Clinic near you.

Emergency Contraception (EC):

  • Often called the morning after pill
  • It works by preventing ovulation (release of an egg), preventing fertilization, or preventing implantation after unprotected sex or if a barrier method fails. Like, for instance, if a condom breaks. 
  • It is not an abortion pill. If implantation has occured (person is medically pregnant), emergency contraception will not harm the pregnancy. 
  • EC works up to 5 days after the event of unprotected sex, but works best the sooner it is taken
  • Men and women 17 years of age or older can get EC at most drug stores
  • Men and women 16 years of age or younger need a prescription for EC

To get an EC prescription or learn more about EC visit 


Call 1-866-ECFIRST (1-866-323-4778)

I need someone to talk to

Regardless of what you decide, there are people in our community who are here to help and support you. We recommend talking with a parent or trusted adult if at all possible. There are local resources available to help you think through your decision and make a plan that is best for you.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Inc
Offers help for birth parents (male and female) through exploring options and making a thoughtful plan for their baby. Their service is free and open to all faiths. 

Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Pregnancy Resource Line
Offers support in helping unplanned pregnant mothers sort through their options and emotional challenges in a nonjudgmental surrounding.


More Resources