Can You Get Pregnant Without Having Sex?

Medically Reviewed By Carla Prophete, MPAS, PA-C
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Pregnancy occurs when sperm fertilizes an egg, which is possible even without sexual intercourse. Any activity that introduces sperm into — or around — the vagina can result in a pregnancy. For conception to occur, sperm must fertilize an egg, which must implant into the uterus lining.

During sexual intercourse, the penis releases millions of sperm into the vagina. The sperm then travel through the cervix, into the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes, where fertilization takes place. Most of the sperm will die before reaching an egg. However, fertilization only requires one sperm.

For fertilization to happen, ovulation has to take place. Ovulation occurs once a month when one of your ovaries releases an egg. The egg travels down the fallopian tubes, where the sperm may be waiting to fertilize it. Once fertilized, the egg implants in the uterus wall.

Once the ovary releases an egg, it can survive for 12–24 hours. Sperm can usually survive inside the female reproductive system for up to 3–5 days. This means your most fertile window is generally the 5 days leading up to ovulation.

Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. This article uses the terms “female” and/or “male” to refer to sex that was assigned at birth. 

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender here.

This article explains how you can get pregnant without having sex, how to prevent pregnancy, and what to do if you think you are pregnant. It will also answer some frequently asked questions about pregnancy.

Is it possible to get pregnant without having sex?

Close up of a person's pregnant stomach, sitting using a laptop
Edward Cordoba/Stocksy United

As long as sperm-containing semen comes in contact with the vagina and makes its way to the cervix, pregnancy is possible.

Some ways that pregnancy can occur without having sex include:

A splash pregnancy is a situation where no penetration occurs, but ejaculation near the exterior of the vagina propels sperm into the cervix. This can also happen if an erect penis comes into contact with your vagina.

Splash pregnancy is rare. The probability of getting pregnant in this way is low because sperm only survive for a short time outside the body. They die quickly when exposed to air.

A 2019 study studied 20 pregnant people with vaginismus, a painful condition that may make penetrative sex impossible. The researchers found that 65% of the females in the study were able to get pregnant without penetrative sex.

In an older 2013 analysis, researchers conducted a self-reported survey of 7,870 pregnant people. They discovered that 0.5% of the participants reported becoming pregnant without having sex.

Clinical insemination

Artificial or intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves delivering washed and concentrated sperm directly into your uterus via a small catheter. This treatment takes place during your most fertile period to maximize the probability of pregnancy occurring. Your doctor may prescribe a fertility medication, such as Clomid, to help stimulate ovulation.

IUI aims to improve your chances of fertilization by increasing the number of healthy sperm that reach your fallopian tubes during ovulation.

IUI may be helpful for:

  • single people who wish to have children with donor sperm
  • same-sex female couples using donor sperm
  • people experiencing infertility due to medical conditions
  • people with unexplained infertility
  • people who are unable to engage in sexual intercourse

IUI is a commonly used treatment option because it is a minimally invasive, lower-cost alternative to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

IVF is the most commonly used form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). According to Planned Parenthood, it is a process that uses a combination of medications and surgical procedures to help the sperm fertilize the egg and then help the fertilized to implant in the uterus.

Read more about in vitro fertilization.

How to prevent pregnancy

If you do not want to get pregnant, using contraception or other forms of birth control can help prevent it.

There are many different options for birth control, which fall into two major categories: permanent and reversible. Reversible methods enable you to cease using birth control when you wish to conceive. However, it is not always possible to reverse permanent methods of contraception.

Long-acting reversible methods of birth control include:

  • non-hormonal copper intrauterine device (IUD)
  • hormonal IUD

Short-acting reversible methods of birth control include:

  • birth control pill
  • birth control patch
  • vaginal ring
  • barrier methods
    • male condom
    • female condom
    • sponge with spermicide
    • diaphragm and cervical cap

Permanent methods of birth control include:

You can also use emergency contraception if you have had sex without using contraception. However, this is not a regular method of birth control and is only meant for emergencies. There are two main types of emergency contraceptives: emergency contraceptive pills and the copper IUD. These methods are more effective the sooner you take them.

What to do if you think you are pregnant

If you are experiencing early pregnancy symptoms or if your period is delayed, taking a pregnancy test may be a good idea.

Signs of pregnancy include:

You may also experience less common symptoms such as:

If you believe you may be pregnant, you can take an at-home pregnancy test or contact your doctor.

Read more about pregnancy and the early symptoms.

Frequently asked questions

These are some questions people frequently ask about getting pregnant. They have been reviewed by Carla Prophete, MPAS, PA-C.

Can a person get pregnant without losing their virginity?

Yes, pregnancy can occur without sexual intercourse. This can occur through a splash pregnancy or treatments such as IVF and IUI.

Can you get pregnant without sperm being released?

You can get pregnant before ejaculation occurs during intercourse because the pre-ejaculate fluid contains sperm. However, you cannot get pregnant if sperm is not released, as sperm is required to fertilize the egg.

Summary

Pregnancy can occur without penis-to-vagina sex due to IVF, IUI, and a splash pregnancy. As long as sperm-containing semen touches the vulva or vagina under certain conditions, pregnancy is possible.

However, the probability of getting pregnant through a splash pregnancy is rare. Sperm usually dies about 15–30 minutes after exposure to air.

If you wish to avoid pregnancy, there are several reversible and non-reversible forms of birth control to choose from. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor about what options may be the most effective for you.

If you are experiencing pregnancy symptoms or your period is late, you can take an at-home pregnancy test or contact your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Carla Prophete, MPAS, PA-C
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 30
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.