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Last updated November 20, 2019. 3 minute read

Can you get pregnant from precum (pre-ejaculate)?

Precum (a.k.a. pre-ejaculatory fluid) is a clear fluid produced by the penis after arousal. It is possible to become pregnant from precum, although it’s rare.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Precum (also known as pre-ejaculate or pre-ejaculatory fluid), is a clear fluid that’s released from the penis via the urethra after erection and before ejaculation. It’s produced by the Cowper’s glands, two pea-sized glands between the prostate and urethra at the base of the penis. Scientists think its evolutionary function was to provide lubrication for intercourse and to alkalize the slightly acidic urethra, helping sperm survive to their destination.

Vitals

  • Precum (a.k.a. pre-ejaculatory fluid) is a clear fluid produced by the penis after arousal.
  • Precum is produced by the Cowper’s glands, which don’t produce sperm, although sperm might mix with precum before it leaves the penis.
  • It is possible to become pregnant from precum, although it’s rare.
  • The “pull-out method” has about a 22% failure rate.

Some men produce quite a bit of precum. Others, not so much. It might appear as a small amount at the tip of the penis or ooze more freely. Some guys might emit precum soon after arousal; for others, it may happen closer to the ejaculatory fireworks.

Can you get pregnant from precum?

In a word: Yes. Women can get pregnant from precum. It’s not likely, but it is possible.

That’s because it’s possible for precum to contain sperm. Although the Cowper’s glands don’t produce sperm, sperm can leak into precum from the other male reproductive organs. Semen can also remain in the urethra after a previous ejaculation, allowing sperm to mix with precum.

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In one study that examined the pre-ejaculatory fluid of several men, 41% of them had precum that contained sperm; in all but one of those cases, the sperm was “motile” or moving (Killick, 2011). “Condoms should continue to be used from the first moment of genital contact, although it may be that some men, less likely to leak spermatozoa in their pre-ejaculatory fluid, are able to practice coitus interruptus more successfully than others,” said the researchers.

Some heterosexual couples use the withdrawal method (a.k.a. coitus interruptus, or the “pull-out method”) as a form of birth control, in which the penis is withdrawn from the vagina before ejaculation. There’s about a 20% failure rate for the withdrawal method, compared to a 13% rate for condoms and 6% for the birth control pill (Sundaram, 2017).

Risk of STIs from precum

It’s possible to contract STDs before ejaculation. The bacteria and viruses that cause STDs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis can be transmitted via precum. 

For example, if you perform oral sex on a man who’s infected with the bacteria that causes gonorrhea, it’s possible to contract that STD in your throat even if he doesn’t ejaculate. Precum can also transmit STDs to the vagina or anus. Although the risk is small, it’s possible to contract STDs if you touch your partner’s penis, then touch your genitals, anus, or eyes.

How to avoid getting pregnant from precum

To avoid getting pregnant from precum, use birth control methods such as a barrier (male or female condoms), an IUD, oral birth control, or a birth control implant. Know that these birth control methods are much more reliable than “pulling out.”

If you’re using the “pull-out method,” urinate before sex to flush out any lingering sperm in the urethra. Withdraw from the vagina before any ejaculate is released, and keep semen away from your partner’s genitals when ejaculating. Even a small amount of semen is enough to cause pregnancy; remember, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg for pregnancy to occur.

Is my precum normal?

Precum is clear and released by the penis after arousal. If you notice a discharge that appears at other times, is white, yellow, or green, or is accompanied by pain, itching, or burning, it might be an STD, and you should consult a healthcare provider.

It’s also a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider about your sexual health regularly — your sexual history, how you can avoid sexually transmitted infections, how often you should be tested for them, and birth control if applicable.

Read more about all your penis-related questions here