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Can I Get Pregnant from Sperm Without Having Sex?

Pregnancy can occur even with careful measures of prevention. A condom can break or slip off. A birth control method might prove ineffective. But what if you’re having sex without actual intercourse? If you aren’t ready to be pregnant, you might be wondering about the potential risks and elements that can lead to a pregnancy. So many “what if” scenarios might be floating around inside your mind, leaving you to wonder what’s true and what’s fiction. What are the possibilities of getting pregnant without having sex?

If you’re concerned your “what if” scenario might have led to a pregnancy, let Avenue Women’s Center be the first step you take in finding out. We’ve helped women face unexpected pregnancy decisions for over 35 years with free, medical-grade pregnancy tests and confidential pregnancy consultations. Discuss your test results and address your “what if” questions with our expert pregnancy consultants. Contact us today to set up your free appointment at one of our locations in Darien, Elmhurst, Glen Ellyn / Lombard, Naperville, West Chicago, or Wood Dale, Illinois.

It is completely normal to wonder about the possibilities of a pregnancy—even if you aren’t having intercourse. You might have a lot of questions you’re too afraid or too embarrassed to ask aloud or search online. The “what if” questions you have are likely more common than you might think. Check out some commonly-asked questions and answers to help separate the facts from fiction about pregnancy risks.

  • Dry sex or dry humping. These terms describe when sex is simulated through clothing without a direct contact of genitals or direct exchange of bodily fluids. The clothing acts as a barrier to prevent the release of sperm into the vagina. However, that doesn’t completely eliminate the risk for pregnancy. Clothing can become entangled or moved, exposing your vulva and allowing for sperm to get close to or enter the vagina. Another risk is if your undergarments or clothing become saturated with semen and directly touch your vagina. While this is a “very slight”* risk, all it takes is one sperm to get around the barrier of clothing and fabric.
  • Grinding and other “outercourse” activities. This is when genitals are directly rubbing or touching without penetration. But even without penetration, there is still a chance of pregnancy. “All that needs to happen is for seminal fluid to leak inside the vagina.”* And this can occur if sperm are ejaculated on top of, near, or around the vagina.
  • Sperm in water. If sperm is ejaculated into a pool with chemicals (such as chlorine), or a hot tub with bubbles and high temperatures, it “would not be able to survive for more than a few seconds.”* Yet, sperm can survive in regular warm water for several minutes. Proximity comes into consideration as well here. Bathtubs, pools, or hot tubs are enormous areas for small sperm to find and enter the vagina. Yet, if close enough, there is still a slight chance of pregnancy, especially if you’re having intercourse in water.
  • Sperm on surfaces. What if your vagina is exposed to sperm on a surface, such as a toilet seat, a shower bench, etc.? The sperm has been exposed to oxygen, so it’s no longer able to swim, right? Not necessarily. This fiction is a common misconception that many women wonder about. It’s not the air that diminishes the sperm, it’s when the sperm is dry that it is no longer active and cannot become reactivated. However, “sperm can live for 3–5 days if it is in a warm, moist environment such as the vagina or uterus,”* so there is a slight risk, albeit very minimal, if the sperm was not dry when it came into contact with a vagina.
  • Sperm on fingers or objects. Similar to sperm on surfaces, the same goes for sperm on fingers or objects inserted into the vagina. If the sperm was still alive when it entered the vagina, then a risk of pregnancy could exist.

These “what ifs” all have a common thread. Risk of a pregnancy can occur even without having direct intercourse with your partner. Sperm are designed with resiliency to “swim” or travel up into the vagina and find an egg to fertilize. At any point when semen comes into contact with your vagina or close to it, there’s a possibility of getting pregnant. And since there are many ways this can happen, prevention is key to reduce the risk of a pregnancy. While these “what if” scenarios rarely result in a pregnancy, the possibility still exists. Even with careful use of protection a pregnancy can still occur. Learn more information and additional “what ifs” at the “Can I Get Pregnant If … ?” page on Avenue’s website.

You might have many more questions and concerns if you think you could be pregnant. At Avenue Women’s Center, we understand the wonder of “what ifs” when it comes to the possibility of a pregnancy. Stop wondering “what if” and come into any of our Chicagoland locations for a free pregnancy test. We offer accurate results you can trust. Reach out to us today to set up your free appointment and get the personalized support to address your pregnancy “what if” questions!



The information provided here is general in nature.  It is not a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional. Before any medical procedure, it is imperative that you discuss your personal medical history, risks, and concerns with your doctor. If you have questions during or after a procedure, your doctor should be immediately contacted. Avenue Women’s Center is not an emergency center.  If you are experiencing severe symptoms, such as bleeding and/or pain, seek immediate medical attention.  Contact your physician, go to an emergency room, or call 911.