Experts Explain Whether You Can Really Get Pregnant From Anal Sex

Anal sex can be a fun and pleasurable experience for many, but there's definitely still some stigma around this form of pleasure. If you're sexually active, you probably have at least a baseline knowledge of how to prevent an unintended pregnancy during penetrative sex. But things can be a little confusing when it comes to anal sex: can you get pregnant from anal sex?

Given that this likely wasn't covered in sex education class, it's a more than fair question. And if you have been having anal sex or are planning on having it, part of being prepared is understanding the risks. It's important to be aware that it is highly unlikely but still possible to get pregnant this way. Not clear on how? Right this way, doctors explain.

Can You Get Pregnant From Anal Sex?

Before we get into that, it's important to cover a few conception basics. Pregnancy happens when an egg is fertilized by sperm. When it happens without reproductive assistance, the egg is released from the ovary and moves into the fallopian tube, where it may be fertilized by sperm after sex, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) explains. From there, the fertilized egg moves through the fallopian tube and into the uterus, where it implants and grows into a fetus.

But that's typically what happens with penile and vaginal intercourse. In the case of anal sex, your partner's penis goes into your anal canal, which is different from the vaginal canal. With that, it makes sense that anal sex wouldn't lead to pregnancy. "It is highly unlikely to become pregnant from anal sex because the rectal region is not connected to the reproductive tract," says women's health expert Jennifer Wider, MD.

But there is a caveat. "If the couple is not using a condom, men may start to ejaculate — so-called pre-ejaculate — which can contain a lot of sperm," says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. That sperm can migrate toward the vagina and up into it, where it could lead to pregnancy, she says.

"It's rare, but not impossible," Dr. Minkin says. Dr. Wider agrees but notes that this is "very, very unlikely."

How to Lower Your Risk of Pregnancy From Anal Sex

Don't want to hedge your bets when it comes to getting pregnant from anal sex? Doctors suggest using a condom. "Wearing a condom during anal sex would be protective against any spilling of semen," Dr. Wider says. (Birth-control pills, an IUD, and other proven contraceptive methods can also help prevent an unintended pregnancy, from anal or other forms of intercourse, Dr. Minkin says.)

Condoms are also helpful because they can help lower your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), Dr. Minkin says. STIs "certainly can be transmitted by anal sex," she adds.

In fact, one older study found that women who had unprotected anal sex were 2.6 times more likely to have an STD diagnosis than those who only had unprotected vaginal sex.

Just keep this in mind, per Dr. Wider: you'll want to change condoms between anal and vaginal sex (if you plan to do both) to lower the risk of bacteria from your anus entering your vaginal canal, where it could cause a urinary tract infection.

If you like to have anal sex but are concerned about your pregnancy risk, know that it's highly unlikely. But it's still a good idea to wear a condom to protect yourself from STIs — and just in case.