Have you ever gone swimming fully clothed?

Yup, you can get pregnant without intercourse

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Spoilers: Sperm are more sophisticated than you think.

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Hands up if you've ever wondered: Can you get pregnant without having sex?

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Seriously, we've all probably asked this question a thousand times in our childhood or adolescence.

More specifically, can you get pregnant from activities other than unprotected vaginal intercourse, such as dry sex, oral, anal, or other sex games?

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If you missed the sex education class, we'll briefly go over how getting pregnant works. The most common way to get pregnant is through unprotected vaginal intercourse, when the penis ejaculates semen into the vagina.

The semen contains sperm that swim up in the vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. If there is an egg, the sperm can fertilize it. As soon as the fertilized egg is implanted in the lining of the uterus, voilà - you are pregnant.

But the question remains: could sperm still enter the vagina and cause pregnancy without all that penis-in-vagina stuff? And we're not talking about insemination or IVF here - we're focusing on the crazy mishaps and accidents that could potentially technically theoretically lead to pregnancy.

According to experts, while it is highly unlikely, it is possible to get pregnant without vaginal sex. Yup, that's good.

"Unfortunately, there are a lot of crazy fairy tales out there just to scare people. So it's important to understand the real scenarios in which it is possible to get pregnant without having sex and why that is." says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive medicine at the Yale School of Medicine on BuzzFeed.

First of all, there are millions of sperm in a tiny bit of ejaculate - we're talking about 20 million sperm per ml of semen and a man ejaculates an average of 3.5 ml each time.

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"It's important to start with the sperm because people may not know that there can be thousands or even millions of these little guys in a single drop of semen," says Minkin. So semen is quite rich in sperm.

Just for the sake of understanding, Minkin says a "low sperm count" is anything below 20 million sperm per ml of semen - and 10 or 15 million per ml is still lots Sperm. "Even a tiny bit of ejaculate can cause pregnancy if it gets into the vagina," says Minkin.

But what about the "pleasure drops", scientifically also called pre-ejaculate? "Research has shown that there are very few, if any, sperm in pre-ejaculate, but there is such a short period of time between pre-ejaculate and ejaculate that the two often mix and you can never be 100% sure that you will pre-ejaculate without it Is sperm, "says Minkin. So it's better to play it safe and assume that there may always be sperm lurking in there.

Sperm are made to find their way through the vagina and find an egg. This means that they can swim from the vulva into the vagina if they are close enough to the vaginal opening.

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"Don't forget that sperm can move - they're designed like little Olympic swimmers whose only job is to swim up through the vagina and find the egg," says Minkin.

So yes, they are sufficiently mobile to swim from the vulva or from near the vulva into the vagina, if they are close enough to the vaginal opening. "A lot of vaginal secretion around the vulva can also make it easier for the sperm to swim into the vagina from the outside."

And depending on where the sperm land, they can survive in the air for several minutes.

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It's not known exactly how long a sperm can survive outside of the body, says Minkin, but researchers know it is longer than a few minutes. It really depends on where the sperm ends up, because the warmer and wetter a place - or the more the place looks like a vagina - the longer it will survive.

So if the semen lands on a dry, cold floor or a toilet seat, the sperm will likely die pretty quickly. However, if the semen lands on the stomach or in a natural fold of skin such as the groin or buttocks, the sperm may survive much longer. "Don't forget that sperm can live in the vaginal canal for up to five days," says Minkin.

Now that you know how abundant and resilient semen is, we can go over the different ways it can get into the vagina and potentially trigger a pregnancy.

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Brief note: In all of the situations that we will discuss in a moment, we assume that the person with the vagina is not using an effective method of contraception that would prevent pregnancy and that she is ovulating, so that there could be an egg to be fertilized for the sperm to fertilize.

When someone ejaculates on or near the vulva during naked dry sex, oral sex, or other types of sex games.

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"If the ejaculate gets close enough to the vulva, it is possible that sperm could get into the vagina," says Minkin. You could move there on its own or the semen could be accidentally smeared or wiped into the vaginal opening.

What if you wear clothes? Well, sperm can go through fabric and it might be technically possible to induce a pregnancy like that, but Minkin says it's very unlikely even if the underwear that touches the vulva is soaked in semen. Clothing is usually a fairly effective barrier as sperm are usually not strong enough to swim through fabric, especially when both partners are clothed and have two layers of fabric to cross.

If semen from recent ejaculation is on fingers, toys, or other objects being inserted into the vagina.

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When someone ejaculates, semen could easily get on their or their partner's fingers. If the sperm are still alive when those fingers end up in the vagina, they can enter the vaginal canal and swim to the uterus where they can induce a pregnancy. The same applies to any sex toys, such as dildos or vibrators or other objects that are inserted into the vagina and may have sperm on them.

If someone ejaculates into the rectum during unprotected anal sex, the semen will run out and onto or near the vulva.

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"When your partner ejaculates into your anus, semen and rectal secretions can escape very easily and then spread to the vulva because it's near the anus," says Minkin. It's still very unlikely to get pregnant from anal sex, she says, but it's technically possible if the semen layer gets messy afterward.

So just look at it this way: The closer the semen gets to the vulva in whatever situation, the more likely it is for sperm to crawl into the vagina and possibly trigger a pregnancy.

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"If the semen lands on your ankle or foot, you probably won't get pregnant," says Minkin.

But if you are not using birth control and are afraid of becoming pregnant, you should probably avoid bringing ejaculate near your vulva. Additionally, you should wash your hands thoroughly after touching semen and clean toys before they get into your vagina.

Other than that, just because it's possible to get pregnant these ways doesn't mean it's likely - it's still very rare.

It depends on the context. Yes, some people have become pregnant from these acts, but statistically it is still very unlikely. Just because it can happen doesn't mean you should get paranoid that it will happen, especially when there are tons of ways you can protect yourself.

If you are afraid of becoming pregnant, you should consider using a reliable method of contraception, such as the pill, birth control ring, or IUD.

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"If you become sexually active or think about it, you can prepare yourself by using a reliable method of contraception that prevents pregnancy in the first place," says Minkin. Contraception can suppress ovulation or prevent the sperm from reaching the egg, which greatly reduces the chances of getting pregnant from sex and other acts mentioned.

There are many different types of hormonal and non-hormonal birth control, so you can work with your doctor to decide what is right for you.

Condoms are also important because sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) can also be spread through unprotected oral or anal sex and even genital skin contact.

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STIs can also be transmitted through oral and anal sex - and sometimes through genital skin contact (which is the case with HPV and herpes) or sharing sex toys.

So if you are engaging in any of these acts, then it makes sense to use a condom. You can use it for safe fingering, slip it over toys and of course use it during anal and oral sex.

No matter what type of sexual encounter you have, protection is important.

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Unless, of course, you want make a baby. Then it's okay.

This article first appeared in English.

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