Every person with a vulva has probably wondered at some point in their life “can you get pregnant from precum” amongst other questions, and yet, precum is surrounded by mythology and misinformation. It’s a sticky matter with all the slippery semantics and scientific jargon. Let’s break the subject down in a way that makes sense and answers your most pressing questions and concerns about precum.
Let’s start with the basics, or the ABC’s of precum:
Precum, also known as pre-ejaculate, is a clear fluid that comes out of the penis during sexual arousal or activity, before you ejaculate. Not to be mistaken with semen, which is a white fluid that comes out of the penis during climax.
Precum is produced by a gland called The Cowper’s Glands, which are small pea-sized glands. The Cowper glands are located at the base of the penis and behind the urethra and connect to the urethra by ducts. Every man and penis owner has two Cowper Glands in their reproductive organs. Precum leaves the body through the urethra, which is also how urine and semen exit the penis.
Yes and no! Precum and semen are not made in the same glands; precum is produced by the Cowper Glands, and semen is produced by the testicles. However, precum and semen do leave the body by the same means - the urethra, a long tube that runs the length of male reproductive organs.
Precum is not the same as semen. However, some caveats are important to understand.
Semen is the white-ish, sticky fluid that comes out of a penis during an orgasm. It is roughly 5% sperm and other enzymes, proteins, and minerals secreted by the male reproductive organs.
Precum is a clear fluid that can be produced at any point during sexual arousal or activity, whereas semen is made at the end of sexual arousal, during climax or orgasm (though not always - dry orgasm is a thing).
While pre-ejaculate isn’t the same as semen, it does contain some of the same compounds found in semen.
Indeed, it is possible for precum to contain sperm. Operative word: possible, not always.
But wait, I thought precum and semen were different; how is this possible? This is where science and semantics get slippery! Pre-ejaculate is a combination of fluids that leave the penis through the urethra. While sperm is not inherently part of precum, when precum is on its journey up the urethra, it can pick up trace amounts of leftover semen. Semen is the fluid that carries sperm, so where there is semen, there is a possibility of sperm cells.
In a 2010 study, scientists reported that 37% of pre-ejaculatory fluid samples taken from males subjects contained viable sperm. From the same study, scientists found that male subjects either always had sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid or not at all. They concluded that some men regularly leak sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid while others do not.
Another study made similar discoveries and concluded that 16.7% of male subjects had sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid.
To summarize: Though unlikely, sperm can be found in precum, in relatively small amounts, and not always. It varies from person to person.
Yes, it’s possible, while unlikely.
Sperm can exist in pre-ejaculatory fluid. Precum is an involuntary response to bodily functions; you can’t control its release. If you are having unprotected sex, there is a chance precum could enter the vagina. However, the likelihood is small. There are extenuating factors to consider, like whether you or your partner’s precum contains sperm, whether you or your partner are ovulating, and whether you or your partner have had back-to-back sexual encounters.
Some researchers believe trace amounts of semen can collect and linger in the urethra from back-to-back sexual encounters. Researchers recommend urinating after each sexual encounter to help flush out any leftover semen, however this doesn’t guarantee that there will be no sperm left in the urethra.
Sperm can live in the body for up to 5 days after sexual encounters. So, even if you or your partner didn’t have sex while ovulating, sperm can still be present in the body if the ovulation occurs within that 5-day window.
Regardless of the likelihood, the answer is yes.
Some penis-owners will notice precum on the tip of their penis; other times, it’s visually undetectable but can still be present.
Ah, the popular pull-out method. Well, it works until it doesn’t. According to one study, the pull-out method, or coitus interruptus, has a 20% failure rate. Typically, the pull-out method is aimed at eliminating semen from causing pregnancy. However, since pre-ejaculate is involuntary, and it might contain sperm, it’s possible for precum to enter the vagina during intercourse and contribute to unintended pregnancy.
Women and vulva owners who are not using another contraceptive method and rely solely on the pull-out method have an increased chance of becoming pregnant. Experts agree there are more effective prevention options than the pull-out method.
Precum or semen are both normal penile secretions. If you or your partner have a little drip during sexual arousal, that’s perfectly okay!
Precum fluid leaves the body through the same method as urine, which is acidic and can be harmful to sperm. Precum is a fluid your body produces to neutralize the acidity of urine in the urethra. Basically, precum coats the pipes to give sperm the best chance of survival. It also acts as a natural lubricant to prepare the penis for sexual intercourse, much like the vagina’s self-lubrication.
It varies from person to person and situation to situation. Experts report a normal range is between a few drops to a teaspoon. If you or your partner secrete more than that, it’s generally not a cause for concern. However, if you or your partner are concerned, consult your physician.
Pre-ejaculate is an automatic reaction to bodily functions; it’s produced when a penis is aroused. While precum can be a strong indicator of sexual arousal, it is not the only metric to determine how aroused you feel. Many things beyond physiology contribute to arousal and sexual desire, such as psychological, emotional, and environmental factors.
Yes. Precum can carry and transmit different bacteria and viruses, such as STDs and STIs, including HIV. While the concentration of viral loads might be lower in pre-ejaculate than semen, you can still contract STDs or STIs from pre-ejaculate.
The best way to avoid a sexually transmittable disease is to use a protective barrier, such as a condom, and get tested regularly as part of safe sex practices. The pull-out method will not prevent the spread of STDs and STIs found in precum.
Just like that, we are a little wiser. We hope our precum ABC’s dispelled some mythology and cleared up some stubborn misinformation. Stay safe and sexy!