how long does it take for a girl to get pregnant after having sex?

Pregnancy doesn’t start the day that partners have sex — it can take up to six days after intercourse for the sperm and egg to join and form a fertilized egg. Then, it can take six to 10 days for the fertilized egg to completely implant itself in the lining of the uterus. Pregnancy begins during implantation when the hormones needed to support pregnancy are released.

The only way to be sure of a pregnancy is to take a pregnancy test. Women can purchase home pregnancy tests at drugstores or go to health centers to take pregnancy tests. Pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone called the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (HCG). HCG is the hormone that supports pregnancy and starts being released when the fertilized egg implants itself and pregnancy begins.

A woman who is concerned about unintended pregnancy after unprotected vaginal intercourse may want to consider emergency contraception (EC). EC, also known as the morning-after pill, is effective if started within 120 hours. If started within 72 hours, EC can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75 to 89 percent. So, the sooner it’s started, the better.

Plan B, a brand of EC, is available over the counter at many pharmacies for women over 17. Teens under 17 can still get EC with a prescription. The best way young women can protect themselves is to get EC before an accident happens, and keep it on hand in case they need it. That way, they won’t waste time after unprotected intercourse waiting to get an appointment with a health care provider or trying to get a prescription filled.

To get a prescription for EC or to arrange for a pregnancy test, contact your local Planned Parenthood health center.

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