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Pregnancy sans penetration?
December 31, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible I got her pregnant through a few layers of clothing? (NSFW, YANAD, etc.)

I realize this sounds ridiculous. Please assume both of us have less than an average high-schoolers' level of sexual education (sad fact is, for various reasons, we both do). Google leads to a LOT of ambiguous "yes-you-can-no-you-can't-stupid" information and our heads are swimming a bit. The most reputable looking stuff we've found is here and here, but maybe we just aren't googling the right terms.

Long story short: lots of making out and dry-humping. She had on panties and pajama bottoms, I had on some micro-fiber boxer shorts. She brought me to orgasm once, I was wet, and then we did it a second time a bit more vigorously, and at that point we were both pretty wet. Hard to say how much she was wet from me, or from herself. At no point did the clothes come off, or there was any direct contact other than through wet clothes - no penetration, nothing like that.

I know now I should have been wearing a condom, but this is the first time I ever thought of it, and the simple fact is that we made a mistake. I didn't think we could really be at risk with clothes on, but when she asked me the question, it kind of hit me.

We are wondering what the chances are that she could have become pregnant in this way. She isn't on any kind of BC and taking the morning-after pill (its available where we are) would be a really HUGE deal for her mentally/emotionally. Of course, having an untimely pregnancy would be huger.

Do we have nothing to worry about? Should I push for the pill to be safe? Everything on wikipedia seems to indicate that there are no serious side-effects or negative health issues with it, but she's still pretty concerned.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (52 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not a doc, but I'd say near impossible.
posted by Menthol at 8:32 AM on December 31, 2009


I THINK maybe she can take 2 birth control pills as backup. Ask the OB. But I woudln't worry about a true morning after pill.
posted by stormpooper at 8:35 AM on December 31, 2009


You have nothing to worry about.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:35 AM on December 31, 2009


you didn't make a mistake, and the odds that you impregnated her through three layers of fabric are very very very very very slim.
posted by mr. remy at 8:36 AM on December 31, 2009


Not a doc either, but I think you're probably fine.
posted by streetdreams at 8:36 AM on December 31, 2009


Nope.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:37 AM on December 31, 2009


My understanding is that it's possible, but incredibly unlikely.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:37 AM on December 31, 2009


You're fine, don't worry.
posted by Dasein at 8:38 AM on December 31, 2009


There is a 20% chance of pregnancy with normal PIV sex. That is, with penetration. There are a lot of factors involved, including her menstrual cycle (women are more fertile on some days and less on others). Add a few layers of clothing, and you really have nothing to worry about.

BUT, if you're going to continue to fool around, you should definitely look into reliable birth control methods (pill for her and/or condom for you).
posted by oinopaponton at 8:38 AM on December 31, 2009


No. Spermatozoa are not fleas.
posted by autoclavicle at 8:39 AM on December 31, 2009 [14 favorites]


There is such a thing, much discussed in family law class if not in real life, as "splash pregnancy" - see toward the bottom of this page from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada - but (and IANAD) I gather that it's very rare.
posted by sueinnyc at 8:39 AM on December 31, 2009


Pregancy chances under the described circumstances seems VERY remote. But given your self-prefessed level of sex education and knowledge, you may want to bone up (pun intended) on the subject before you both engage in further sexual activities.
posted by murrey at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2009


If I'm reading your question correctly, she is not (to her knowledge) currently pregnant, but worried that she might have become pregnant. The chances that she has become pregnant in this way are effectively slim to none, so I would stop worrying and instead spend the next few days learning a lot more about sex before you fool around again.
posted by davejay at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2009 [4 favorites]


Not possible, but you need to have a conversation (fully clothed, not in bed) about birth control options for the next time. Not because it's possible to get pregnant by what you're doing, but it's going to be harder and harder not to go farther each time, and by the time you get to "just the tip, just for a minute" there is a chance of pregnancy not to mention STDs.

Carry condoms from now on. And she should consider the pill or some other form of hormonal contraceptive. While she's at the doctor's office, she should ask for some more information about sexuality and what can cause you to get pregnant/get STDs. There's no shame in not knowing, but you have options available to learn about it from solid medical sources, so it's silly not to take advantage of that.

Happy humping. :)
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


You can use some types of oral contraceptives as a backup/EC. "Plan B" is really just a bit more of one of the common types of oral contraceptives.. it's not a nuclear weapon or anything scorched-earth style that's going to cause pink elephants to appear. That said, the drawback some women seem to have - speaking from 2nd-hand experience - is that their moods and weight can fluxuate greatly with some types of OC, and if so, it can be minimized by switching types.

I'd say you're fine, but that the pill is probably a good idea given your respective experience and enthusiasm. :)
posted by kcm at 8:44 AM on December 31, 2009


I think many of the "it's possible" anecdotes come from cases of teenagers (or others who could be punished/stigmatized for sex outside of marriage) who swear up and down that "it never went in" when in fact, it did or, uh, almost did.

No clothing? Perhaps. One layer? Still slightly possible. Three layers of clothing? I wouldn't worry about it....but I would figure out what kind of birth control/barrier measures you need to use next time to feel safe and comfortable.
posted by availablelight at 8:44 AM on December 31, 2009


Please go spend a lot of time reading at Scarleteen. While you are there, please read this fact sheet about emergency contraception. It is very likely that your girlfriend does not understand EC because most of this things people get hung up on and upset about are simply not accurate.

Basically, you have a pregnancy risk greater than null. There is no good reason not to take EC, and if pregnancy would be catastrophic, that's what you should do.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:46 AM on December 31, 2009 [13 favorites]


The chances of her getting pregnant are veeeery remote. Now, she should get on some kind of BC or you should at least get condoms, because it's very easy to get caught up in the moment and end up doing something much more likely to get her pregnant.
I remember reading various iterations of this question in Seventeen magazine in my early teens. Does/did your girlfriend ever have access to this type of information at least? This website is a good source for young people.
posted by ishotjr at 8:49 AM on December 31, 2009


*if you choose only to use condoms, be aware that if they break, EC will be her only real option to ensure she doesn't get pregnant. EC is NOT the same as the abortion pill.
posted by ishotjr at 8:50 AM on December 31, 2009


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 have been found to give a definite answer on this possibility.


I think this is a good learning opportunity for you two about the concept of risk and sexual activity with relation to birth control, and to take control of your sexuality in a positive and mature way! Don't freak out - stay calm and think through these issues lovingly with your girl.

Essentially, the two of you have chosen a kind of birth control method -- abstaining from penetrative sex. As it turns out, this kind of birth control poses a very small, but unknown, risk of pregnancy, about which you did not educate yourself in advance.

The fact is, the method you chose is probably more effective than having sex using a condom. I seriously doubt you'd be so worried if you had just done that! The fear you're experiencing instead seems to come from the fact that you realize that you didn't think through the situation and plan what kind of method you were going to use - instead, you just did it and tried to do the research after, leading to a sense of loss of control.

Every single kind of birth control has some kind of risk of failure - part of having an adult sex life is learning about those risks in advance and deciding which kind of risks and tradeoffs you're willing to accept. Going forward, you'll feel better and more in control if you research your methods in advance, evaluate the risks and benefits, and chose deliberately instead of letting things "just happen".

Good luck, and have fun!
posted by yarly at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2009 [8 favorites]


It's certainly possible but it's very, very unlikely. Think about the challenges in the way of the sperm:

1) Make it through three layers of clothing (each layer will block a lot of sperm)
2) Make it from the outside of your girlfriend's crotch into her vagina
3) Swim much further than it would normally have to (when you consider the length of a sperm, the extra distance it has to travel without being carried up there by your penis is huge)
4) Make it into the womb (is your girlfriend a virgin? An intact hymen isn't a garuantee but will provide a serious obstacle)
5) Arrive at a time during your girlfriend's menstrual cycle when she's actually capable of getting pregnant (NB: This is effectively pinning your hope on the rhythm method, which sort-of works for some couples but shouldn't be relied upon).

None of these are absolute barriers, so pregnancy is possible but together they make it very unlikely.

One thing to bear in mind is where your hands were going. Could a hand have gone inside your shorts then inside her underwear or even inside her? Sperm could have been carried that way, skipping some of the barriers and therefore increasing the odds of pregnancy.
posted by metaBugs at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2009 [2 favorites]


Staggeringly unlikely.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2009


And go pick up a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves.
posted by history is a weapon at 9:29 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really unlikely. As in, if it happens, you should have also bought a lottery ticket that same day because damn.

But -- you may want to consider the morning-after pill or something like that anyway, because even though all of us are sitting here and saying "no, you're FIIIIINE", pregnancy paranoia has a way of sticking in your brain, and you may find that even with all these assurances you still are fretting about "but what if it still DOES happen?"

And the fun part is -- stress can make a woman's period late. Including stress from worrying about whether you're pregnant. So you may find yourself worrying yourself into more paranoia. Taking the morning-after pill, though, could give you a sense of control that "well, even if I DID end up being the one in a squillion, at least I have done something about it."

Then again, you say that your girlfriend is uncomfortable with the idea -- can you clarify why that is? Does she think it is an abortion? Because it isn't, really -- all the morning-after pill does is prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. If you take it early enough, it may even stop fertilization in the first place. 99.9999999% of people don't even consider a woman to be pregnant unless the egg has implanted in the uterus, and sometimes fertilized eggs just don't implant naturally.

Mind you, if she does know that but is still hinky about it, fair enough. (Some people are just really uncomfortable with the idea of hormonal tinkering anyway -- I personally stopped taking the pill for just that reason).

In short -- it is extremely unlikely that anything happened. But you may want to consider doing something just for your own peace of mind, so you don't put yourselves through unnecessary stress over this either (because who needs that, right)?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nope.
posted by OmieWise at 9:33 AM on December 31, 2009


If you for real for real kept three layers of clothing between you, good lord, no, she's not pregnant.
posted by desuetude at 9:37 AM on December 31, 2009


The little swimmers need semen to swim in, and the cloth will have soaked up the liquid portion of the ejaculate. If any of them somehow got stuffed through the gaps in three layers of cloth, they were stranded on the beach and died dried out, mangled deaths.
posted by longsleeves at 9:43 AM on December 31, 2009 [3 favorites]


stress can make a woman's period late

Actually, there is little conclusive evidence that this is true. One study found no correlation between psychological stress and menstrual cycles. My personal theory is that a lot of times when "stress" made the period late, the woman was actually pregnant and had an early miscarriage.

I am not a know-it-all; I just play one on the internet.
posted by yarly at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


As others have said, it is an infinitesimal but nonzero possibility.

And, respectfully: You say your girlfriend is uncomfortable with the morning-after pill, and neither of you are using birth control? If you do not wish to have a baby with this woman, you need to put a condom on before things get as far as they got.
posted by box at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2009


She's not pregnant.

No one in the history of the world has ever gotten pregnant that way.

-
posted by General Tonic at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2009


Your spermatazoon can theoretically fit through a hole that is 5 µm by 3 µm wide but are very unlikely to. You significant other's chances are staggeringly remote but just how much more remote than 20% they are is unknown.

Perhaps in a few years if you're ever willing to get pregnant you could get a bunch of like minded friends together, try very hard to conceive with barriers like these for a year, and publish the result?
posted by Blasdelb at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2009


[few comments removed - additional "suggestions" really unhelpful in these situations, thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 9:58 AM on December 31, 2009


Keep in mind that the EC (Emergency Contraception) is a one time medication. It would make sense to be cautious or concerned about taking long term hormonal birth control, but any side effects (generally, nausea and maybe some mood-swingyness) of EC are not only rare to begin with, but are also temporary -- maybe a day or two.

Planned Parenthood is very reputable, and their website has a really, really good overview of EC; check it out. (Seriously, read the whole thing, specifically the What Are the Disadvantages of Emergency Contraception? section. It'll make you and your girlfriend feel much better.)

It's possible, however extremely unlikely*, that she could become pregnant. There are essentially no long term detrimental effects of taking EC once (aside from parting with the price of the medication). Seems like getting some Plan B (the available brand of EC) is a reasonable choice, even if it's mostly for peace of mind.

*If there was a ton of moisture extending from relevant-place to relevant-place, and if she's ovulating and has (lots of) sperm-friendly cervical mucus, and she is predisposed to being fertile, it doesn't seem impossible that the sperm could make the journey, despite the clothes. If anything, it's more likely than if there'd been no semen.
posted by sentient at 10:03 AM on December 31, 2009


Oh -- here's an article from Scarleteen (which people have mentioned) that's kind of a choose your own adventure can-I-get-pregnant-from-the-dry-humping-I-engaged-in assessment.
posted by sentient at 10:22 AM on December 31, 2009


The Contraceptive Handbook is really, really good.
posted by jgirl at 10:40 AM on December 31, 2009


Your chances of achieving pregnancy from this are about the same as getting struck by lightning this month. I wouldn't worry.

You might discuss with your gf where she is in her cycle. There are only a few days a month when she is fertile. This might provide some additional peace of mind if she was clearly outside this window.
posted by caddis at 11:05 AM on December 31, 2009


second caddis...she has one or two fertile days 2 wks after the start of her period...otherwise there is nothing in there to fertilize.
posted by esereth at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2009


The odds of her getting pregnant from this are such that you might as well worry about getting some of your boys on the toilet seat and then having her get pregnant by sitting on it.

There is a 20% chance of pregnancy with normal PIV sex. That is, with penetration.

Waaaah? No. I think you've misunderstood some statistics.
posted by Justinian at 12:18 PM on December 31, 2009


Look at this way -- whatever the odds are, however impossibly small, they are not zero.

Find some other way to bring each other off. It'll be safer. And way, way, WAY more more fun.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:52 PM on December 31, 2009


Do we have nothing to worry about? Should I push for the pill to be safe? Everything on wikipedia seems to indicate that there are no serious side-effects or negative health issues with it, but she's still pretty concerned.

Many women are fine with the pill, but it can have side effects (high blood pressure was one that I experienced); when you're young, particularly, it's a good idea to use a condom every time, regardless of whether she's on the pill. Remember, the pill doesn't protect either of you from STDs, and condoms are pretty side-effect free, unlike more systemic methods of birth control.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:08 PM on December 31, 2009


Actually, there is little conclusive evidence that this is true. One study found no correlation between psychological stress and menstrual cycles. My personal theory is that a lot of times when "stress" made the period late, the woman was actually pregnant and had an early miscarriage.

A little clarification from the linked article, "It turns out the scientific studies have found no conclusive answer as they've returned mixed results, but this may be because they don't adequately distinguish between physical stress and psychological stress." And then the study itself is of course much more specific, "The results indicate that moderate levels of anxiety, whether acute or chronic, are not associated with suppressed ovarian function in healthy women."

Anyway, even if there is not a pattern of a correlation between stress and late/missed periods, it doesn't negate the experiences of individual women.

Nor does it address the perception of a period being late, even if is actually within a normal margin but is fraught with more anxiety due to pregnancy fear. Meaning, most women don't menstruate on cue at exactly 28 days every month, but when you're already stressed out, a perfectly normal 31 day cycle can seem significantly late.
posted by desuetude at 2:18 PM on December 31, 2009


While technically possible the chances are so remote that it's not worth worrying about.

oinopaponton writes "There is a 20% chance of pregnancy with normal PIV sex."

Are you meaning to refer to a single event here? Because that seems really high to me considering there is roughly a 1 in 5 chance a remotely viable egg is even around on any given day.
posted by Mitheral at 2:23 PM on December 31, 2009


Hey PhoBWanKenobi, are you talking about hormonal birth control, or Plan B? I think he means Plan B when he says "the pill."
posted by sentient at 2:28 PM on December 31, 2009


sentient, I was referring to HBC--it wasn't entirely clear from the post that he was referring there to the pill there or Plan B.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:32 PM on December 31, 2009


I'm not even sure why so many people are saying that it's 'technically possible' to get pregnant this way. To posit this is to spread the concept of 'possible' pretty damn thin. It may not create a logical paradox and sure enough we can dream up a bizarre fictional scenario where this miracle second only to Virgin Mary's fertilization can take place, but surely there has to be a limit after which a truly unlikely scenario falls in the realm of friggin impossible. After all, we are talking about a specific biological phenomenon and not metaphysics.

But I know pregnancy scare and how irrational it can be. Let's put it this way: If your description of events is accurate, I'd bet everything I own against the pregnancy regardless of odds. I'd take out a substantial loan and bet that too. I'd even bet my cat, if I had one.


What are the chances, you ask. Chance doesn't factor into it.
posted by Orchestra at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2009


Orchestra writes "I'm not even sure why so many people are saying that it's 'technically possible' to get pregnant this way. To posit this is to spread the concept of 'possible' pretty damn thin."

Because it is, several people have linked to supporting opinions, and few are going to come out and say it's completely impossible because no one has studied it (Man would that ever be a cruel study).
posted by Mitheral at 5:17 PM on December 31, 2009


No. For the future, PLEASE do some research on sex ed for both your sakes.
posted by CwgrlUp at 6:35 PM on December 31, 2009


Because it is, several people have linked to supporting opinions, and few are going to come out and say it's completely impossible because no one has studied it

I'm not sure that "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 have been found to give a definite answer on this possibility." counts as a "supporting opinion".

As far as I am aware there have been no conclusive studies to show that you can't get pregnant from swimming in a swimming pool where some dude has jizzed recently, but I wouldn't call that a possibility worth worrying about.

I would say this is possible in the same way that it is possible to win the lottery twice. You're far more likely to hurt yourself through inattention while worrying about the possibility than have the possibility occur.
posted by Justinian at 6:41 PM on December 31, 2009


It's not possible. I know this from experience.
posted by biochemist at 8:18 PM on December 31, 2009


It's astronomically unlikely that she is pregnant.

That said, it's good that you had this scare before you actually did do something stupid. Buy some condoms. Use them.
posted by ixohoxi at 10:38 AM on January 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I'm a little surprised by all of the "wear a condom" recommendations. Anonymous should HAVE condoms, in case things go farther, but do you folks really wear condoms for dry-humping?
posted by desuetude at 11:35 AM on January 2, 2010


For what it's worth, there appears to be a counterexample to "it's impossible," depending on how much credence you have in the first answer (by "Just Me") under "Other Answers" to this Yahoo! Answers question. She says you can email her if you don't believe her....

Sure, we can evaluate the theoretical possibility of conception without penetration based on known properties of all the necessary components, but really I'm surprised that there haven't been studies about conception without penetration, or with a fabric barrier. (Unless I'm just not finding them, which is possible.)
posted by sentient at 12:15 PM on January 2, 2010


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