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Can You Get Pregnant From Precum?

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Can You Get Pregnant From Precum?

Pre-ejaculatory fluid or “precum” seeps out before ejaculation during intercourse. Precum on its own may not get a woman pregnant because semen is absent in this fluid. However, sometimes, sperm may leak out before ejaculation and mix with the precum, increasing the likelihood of pregnancy. There's also the chance of sexually transmitted diseases being passed on through this bodily fluid.

Nearly 60 percent of sexually active women between ages 15 and 44 have used the withdrawal method (coitus interruptus) to prevent pregnancy.1 And while this method focuses on ejaculation, it presents a gray area when it comes to precum. If you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, it may be worth taking a closer look at the risks linked to precum.

What Is Precum?

“Precum,” also known as pre-ejaculatory, pre-seminal, or Cowper’s fluid, is the bodily fluid that the penis emits before ejaculation.2 When a male is aroused, this clear fluid leaks out from the tip of the penis. Its purpose is to neutralize the acidic nature of the woman’s urethra so that sperm can survive. It also acts as a coagulant for semen and a lubricant to aid penetration.3

Is There Sperm In Pre-ejaculatory Fluid?

Early belief speculated that there may be sperm in precum. But recent research has revealed that pre-ejaculate fluid has no sperm, except for some that are dead or immobile. It’s not all straightforward, though. While precum by itself may be sperm-free, there’s a chance that some sperm can escape from the penis before ejaculation and mix in with the precum.4 In fact, in one study that collected pre-ejaculatory fluid within two minutes of production, the results were surprising. They found that some men in the study seemed to routinely leak their sperm into the pre-seminal fluid.5While it is still unclear why this leaking happens and whether it is common, this is a possibility you need to reckon with.

If the man has not urinated since the last time he ejaculated, it is also possible for residual sperm to be present in precum.6

Could You Get Pregnant From A Precum?

It can be hard to tell when precum ends and ejaculation begins. It is possible for the two to mix, and a split second’s delay could make all the difference. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the answer is a complex one. Since current research indicates that pre-seminal fluid doesn’t usually contain sperm, with the exception of some clumped or immobile sperm, you’d think that pregnancy isn’t likely. Yet, there’s still a small chance that sperm can leak out into the precum, increasing the risk for pregnancy. After all, it only takes a single sperm to get you pregnant!7

If you are already on birth control such as an intrauterine device (IUD) or the pill, it will kick in and prevent pregnancy as usual. According to the CDC, your chance of getting pregnant (from precum or sperm) is less than 1 in 100 if you have an IUD or an implant. If you have been sterilized, the same risk applies. With other methods like the pill or diaphragm, the chances of pregnancy are higher, but still considered to be low. Subsequently, these methods are widely used in preventing unplanned pregnancy.8

Better Safe Than Sorry

While the debate on the level of sperm in precum rages on, it’s still a good idea to play it safe. Remember, precum may contain a sexually transmitted infection even if it doesn’t have any sperm.9In one study, the pre-ejaculate from almost all the participants in the study showed no sperm in them, barring tiny clumps of immobile sperm for some. However, the pre-seminal fluid of 12 out of 23 HIV-infected individuals had the virus.10So even if you aren’t avoiding pregnancy, a bigger concern may be the contraction of viruses and infections.

Whether or not there is sperm in the actual pre-ejaculatory fluid, you should consider using a barrier method of contraception like a condom. This also has the benefit of protecting you from potentially contracting (or passing on) a sexually transmitted disease. Plus, with the added protection in place, you can focus your attention on more important things – like your partner and your satisfaction.

References   [ + ]

1. Use Of Contraception in the United States: 1982–2008, CDC.
2, 7. Can You Get Pregnant With Precum? American Pregnancy Association.
3, 6. Semen, University of California, Santa Barbara.
4. Can You Get Pregnant With Precum?, American Pregnancy Association.
5. Killick, Stephen R., Christine Leary, James Trussell, and Katherine A. Guthrie. “Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid.” Human Fertility 14, no. 1 (2011): 48-52.
8. Effectiveness of Family Planning Methods, CDC.
9. 15 things you should know about sex, NHS.
10. “Researchers find no sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid.” Contracept Technol Update. 1993 Oct;14(10):154-6.