Pregnancy and teens

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If you are sexually active, there is a risk that you could get pregnant or get your partner pregnant. This page provides answers to some common questions you may have about pregnancy.

Key points

  • A female-bodied person can become pregnant if she has sex with a male-bodied person who releases sperm inside the vagina.
  • It is important to use contraception every time you have sex if you want to avoid pregnancy.
  • If you think you may be pregnant, you should make an appointment with a health-care provider to discuss your options. You can also buy a pregnancy test from a pharmacy before making an appointment.
  • It is your choice whether to tell your partner, parents/guardian or anyone else about your pregnancy. Your health-care provider can support you in telling others about your pregnancy and any decisions you have made about the pregnancy.

How do people get pregnant?

If you are sexually active, there is a chance you could become pregnant or get your partner pregnant. Pregnancy may be avoided by using of contraception, although no form of contraception is 100 percent effective at preventing a pregnancy.

Important: While not everyone with a female reproductive system identifies as a female and not everyone with a male reproductive system identifies as male, we will be referring to female-bodied and male-bodied persons throughout this article. We will also be using the pronouns 'she' and 'he'. These terms refer to the reproductive systems but not to the gender or identity of any individual person.

A female-bodied person may become pregnant if she has intercourse (sex) with a male-bodied person and he releases his sperm (ejaculates) inside her vagina.

A female-bodied person can also become pregnant even if the male-bodied person pulls his penis out of the vagina before ejaculating. This is because the fluid that comes out of the penis before ejaculation may have leftover sperm in it from a previous ejaculation.

Even if you don’t have vaginal or penetrative sex, a female-bodied person can become pregnant if a male-bodied person ejaculates very close to the vagina or if an erect penis comes into contact with the vagina. It’s very rare to get pregnant this way, but it’s not impossible. If you want to avoid pregnancy, you should use contraception every time you have sex.

What are ovulation and fertilization?

Once every month or so, the ovary releases an egg cell. This process, called ovulation, usually happens about 14 days after the start of a person’s last menstrual period if they have a 28-day menstrual cycle. The egg cell is swept through the fallopian tube, which runs from the ovary to the uterus. The egg cell slows down in the longest and widest part of the fallopian tube. This is where the egg cell is fertilized if it encounters a sperm cell after sex.

During sex, the penis releases a thick, whitish fluid called semen into the vagina. Semen contains millions of sperm cells that deposit in and around the vagina. Several hundred of these sperm cells can pass through the vagina into the uterus. From there, the sperm cells enter the fallopian tubes. The sperm cells surround the egg cell if it is present. When a sperm enters an egg cell, they combine, and their chromosomes mingle together. This is called conception or fertilization.

If the egg is fertilized by the sperm cell, the fertilized egg cell begins to divide into two cells, then four, then eight, and so on, while it travels the rest of the way through the fallopian tube to the uterus. There it implants and grows into a fetus (unborn baby). If the egg is not fertilized by the sperm, it will eventually be expelled, along with the lining of the uterus, during the next menstrual period.

Can a person get pregnant while on their period?

Yes, a person can get pregnant if they have sex while on their period. Any time you have vaginal sex there is a chance of pregnancy, even if the female-bodied person is not ovulating. The best way to avoid pregnancy is to use contraception every time you have sex.

What is a pregnancy test?

If you’re concerned that you or your partner is pregnant, you can take a pregnancy test either at your doctor’s office or by buying an at-home pregnancy test. These can be purchased at most pharmacies.

Most at-home pregnancy tests claim that they can give you results as early as the first day of a missed period, but it’s best to wait until one week after you have missed a period. Talk to a health-care provider about a lab test if you want to know sooner.

What should I do if I think I’m pregnant?

If you think you might be pregnant, make an appointment with a health-care provider. It’s important to speak with a health-care provider as soon as possible so that you can discuss your options. Do not drink alcohol, smoke or take drugs if you think you’re pregnant.

How do I tell my partner I’m pregnant?

How or if you tell the person who got you pregnant will depend on several factors, for example:

  • What is your relationship with this person? Are you in a committed relationship or is it more casual?
  • What is your relationship like? Is the relationship mutually respectful or has it been abusive or unsafe?
  • Is this person supportive and someone you trust and can rely on?

If you have a good relationship with this person, you can find a quiet space to have a conversation and decide what your next steps will be. If you do not have good communication or a good relationship with this person, you may choose to have someone else with you if/when you tell them, or you may choose not to tell them at all.

Remember: It’s your choice whether to tell your partner or anyone else about your pregnancy. Your health-care provider must also keep your pregnancy confidential and not share this information with anyone else without your consent.

How do I tell my parents/guardians I’m pregnant/my partner is pregnant?

While having support from your parent(s), guardian(s) or another trusted adult is ideal, everyone’s relationship with their parents/guardians is different.

You may feel safe and comfortable talking to your parent/guardian before you talk to a health-care provider. You may even want your parent/guardian to be involved in your decision. Or you might feel uncomfortable, afraid or unsafe telling your parent/guardian. In that case, you may choose to not tell your parent/guardian or to have a health-care provider or other trusted adult with you when/if you tell your parent/guardian.

Remember: It is your choice whether to tell your parent/guardian or anyone else about your pregnancy. Depending on your relationship, you may wish to discuss your options with your parent/guardian, or you may want to decide on what to do before you tell them about your pregnancy.

What are my options?

When you make an appointment with a health-care provider, they will talk with you about the options that are available to you. They can provide counselling or refer you to someone who can provide counselling on the main pregnancy outcomes – parenthood, adoption and abortion. They will review what each of these options means for you.

In Ontario, there is no minimum age to consent to medical treatment which means you can make the decision for yourself about what you want to do with your pregnancy. If you have the capacity, or ability, to make decisions and you can understand what each of your options for pregnancy means, then you can make the decision about what to do without consulting your parent/guardian. Your health-care provider also has to keep what you tell them confidential (private), meaning if you are pregnant, they cannot tell anyone else without your permission unless the information is related to your safety or the safety of others.

To learn more about confidentiality, please read the article called "What is confidentiality?". To learn more about consent and capacity, please read the article called "Consent and capacity in health care".

Last updated: October 19th 2021