Rape-Related Pregnancy and Pregnancy Loss

Not Sure if You're Pregnant

How likely is it?

How likely you are to be pregnant depends on individual factors, such as age, natural fertility, where you are in your menstrual cycle etc.  This website, Could I Be Pregnant?, might help you consider your individual risk of being pregnant.  According to a large, well-regarded study from 1996, about 5% of women aged 12 to 45 who're raped become pregnant.  According to a study from 2001, a woman who's been raped may be two times more likely to become pregnant than a woman who's had consensual unprotected sex.

Emergency Contraception:

So, what can you do?  Well, first, consider emergency contraception.  Emergency contraception is not an abortion pill and won't harm you or a fetus.  There are medications which can terminate a pregnancy (mifepristone and misoprostol) but they aren't the same as emergency contraception.  For more information please see these pages Does Emergency Contraception Cause an Abortion? and How are Emergency Contraceptive Pills Different from the Abortion Pill?
There is no evidence that emergency contraceptive pills work once an egg is fertilised. Pregnancy begins when a fertilised egg implants into the wall of the uterus.  One medication (Ella, ulipristal acetate - not available in Australia) may thicken the lining of the uterus but it isn't clear whether this affects implantation.

There are two main kinds of emergency contraception - an IUD and medications, often referred to as "the morning after pill".  Both methods are more effective the sooner you use them. The IUD is the most effective (reducing the risk of pregnancy by more than 99%).  It needs to be inserted by a doctor.  For more information see Emergency Contraception for Sexual Assault and IUDs.

The "morning after pill" is really mis-named.  You can take it right away (you don't have to wait till the next morning) and it can work for up to 5 days after unprotected sex, though the sooner you take it the more effective it will be.  It works by mainly (maybe only) by delaying or inhibiting ovulation.  It might also affect the movement of the sperm and egg or implantation, but this isn't clear.  There are several different types and they vary in effectiveness.  Ella (ulipristal acetate) is the most effective but isn't available in all countries e.g. Australia.  Progestin only pills are the next most effective.  A progestin only pill taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 95%.  Pills containing both progestin and estrogen are less effective, reducing the risk of pregnancy by up to 75%.

For more information about how emergency contraception works, what's available in your country and where to get you can go to this excellent page run by Princeton - The Emergency Contraception Website

If you're in Australia this page about emergency contraception might help.  Here you can get emergency contraception without a prescription over-the-counter in pharmacies for $20-50.  It's also available from family planning and sexual health clinics, public hospital emergency departments and youth health services, and may be provided free.  If you go to hospital after the assault you should be given emergency contraception along with tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  It's very important that you get tested for STIs.  You can often prevent any long-term effects if you get early treatment.  For more information about rape and STIs see this page.  For Australian information about STIs and where you can get tested for them see this page (WA, SA, NT, TAS, QLD, NSW) or this page (ACT).


Photo by David Chudnov, Free Large Photos

Getting Support:

If you feel like you just can't deal with going to a pharmacy or clinic, you're not alone.  Breathe slowly and think for a moment about who might be able to support you.  Is there someone who's willing to ring up for you?  Is there someone who can go with you?  Have you called your local rape crisis service?  They'll be willing to help you work this out.  Where I am, people from the rape crisis service can go with you to appointments and arrange things like emergency contraception and health checks for you.  I know it's really hard to talk about - I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this!  The workers at your local rape crisis service, or sexual health clinic, are experienced at talking to people who're traumatized and will try to help you in any way they can.  Good luck!

If you didn't think about the possibility of pregnancy, or couldn't do anything about it, until after the window for emergency contraception, please be kind to yourself about that.  Beating yourself up about this is like beating yourself up for being too injured in a car crash to call for help!  Trauma makes it really hard to look after ourselves.  We do what we can when we can.  If you're pregnant as a result, the responsibility for that belongs to the person who raped and traumatized you, not you.  It's not your fault.

Some Signs and symptoms of pregnancy:

If you're pregnant you might have some of these signs and symptoms.  If it's possible you're pregnant and your period is at least a week late consider taking a pregnancy test.  Pregnancy tests work by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced by the placenta after implantation.  If the test is done too early in the pregnancy the levels of hCG might be too low to be detected.  This page contains good information about pregnancy testing.  If you use a home pregnancy test, you'll need to see a doctor to confirm the result and let you know how far along you are.  Pregnancy is a real challenge for you physically and emotionally - it's good to get extra support and care as soon as possible.  Again, if someone can be with you to support you as you take the test or see a doctor, then try to arrange it.  You deserve that help and kindness!

Feelings and Thoughts:

Please see the Feelings and Thoughts page here.

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