What Is the Likelihood of Getting Pregnant From Precum?

Though rare, there's a possibility it could happen.

Junior high sexual education class made us believe that if someone so much as sneezed on you, you could get pregnant. And if precum got in the vicinity of your vagina? Well, you might as well start planning your baby shower.

As adults, we became curious: What are the odds of pregnancy from precum? To find out, Health spoke to two physicians who specialize in sexual health.

What Is Precum?

A study published in 2014 in the International Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Research explained precum, or pre-ejaculate fluid, is the substance that comes out of a person's penis when they have become sexually aroused before an orgasm.

Per the study, it is released from the bulbourethral glands, also known as Cowper's glands, which are two pea-sized glands located between the prostate and the base of the penis. The glands of Littre also contribute fluid. Unlike semen, which is released during ejaculation, it is unclear how much, if any, viable sperm pre-cum may contain.

The study noted that pre-cum amounts vary from individual to individual. Some do not produce any, and some may produce as much as 5mL.

So, Can Someone Get Pregnant From Precum?

"Most of the evidence leans toward pre-ejaculate containing no sperm, or only very tiny amounts of sperm," Michael Reitano, MD, physician-in-residence for the men's health website Roman, told Health. "What sperm is found [in precum] tends to be poorly formed and immobile. Men are considered infertile if they have too little sperm, so the tiny amounts that may be found in pre-ejaculate are extremely unlikely to result in pregnancy."

Still, while pregnancy is highly unlikely, it's not impossible.

"It just takes one good swimmer," said Amanda Kallen, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. In other words, it is possible for one hardy sperm in your partner's precum to travel past your cervix and fertilize an egg.

No wonder "pulling out" is such a poor form of birth control. "The pull-out method, if used perfectly, has a failure rate of about 4%," Dr. Kallen said. "But in real life, it's more like 22%."

Even if someone thinks they've pulled out in time, it doesn't always work out that way. "A man may believe he withdrew before the start of ejaculation, but the timing of an orgasm and ejaculation is not always perfectly coordinated," Dr. Reitano said. "He may begin to ejaculate a moment before he senses his orgasm. What is released then is not precum, but the actual first small emissions of ejaculation."

What Is the Purpose of Precum?

The reason for precum isn't for carrying sperm. According to Dr. Reitano, it's a basic fluid that is released to protect sperm from the acid environment of the urethra and the vagina. It also aids in lubrication to some degree.

However, precum carries another risk besides a hidden sperm or two. "Precum can transmit sexually transmitted [infections]," Dr. Reitano said. "Precum may not have sperm, but it can easily contain any infectious material a person may carry, and this means the [infection] can be transmitted to a partner."

Preventing Pregnancy

Per the 2014 study in the International Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Research, pre-cum itself likely does not contain sperm. However, sperm may be present in the urethra. So, the study recommended people with penises urinate prior to sex to clear the urethra if they are planning on using the withdrawal method.

Additionally, as said by Dr. Reitano, timing withdrawal prior to an orgasm and ejaculation can be challenging, and the individual may not pull out in time.

If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, your best bet is to use a form of birth control—whether through a prescription by your healthcare professional (such as an IUD, injection, implant, or birth control pills), a condom, or both.

While pre-cum is unlikely to contain much, if any, sperm, there is the possibility sperm exists in pre-cum, and pre-cum can also transmit sexually transmitted infections.

If you had unprotected sex and are concerned about the risk of pregnancy, Plan B is an over-the-counter emergency contraceptive designed to prevent pregnancy. Yale Health explained Plan B is most effective when taken within three days of unprotected sex. While it is less effective at preventing pregnancy after three days, it can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

Per Yale Health, Ella is another form of emergency contraception. Ella requires a prescription from a healthcare professional. However, Ella is effective up to five days after unprotected sex and may be more effective at preventing pregnancy in those with a higher body mass index (BMI).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also explained that a long-acting form of birth control, the copper coil, can also be used for emergency contraception. Copper coils are an intrauterine device and must be inserted by a trained healthcare professional.

Summary

So, while pre-cum itself likely does not contain much viable sperm, if any, as Dr. Kallen said, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, your best course of action is to talk to your healthcare professional about the best birth control options for your lifestyle.

And, if you did have unprotected sex and are concerned about pregnancy, Plan B is available over the counter. Or, depending on your needs, you can reach out to a healthcare professional for prescription options such as Ella or a copper coil.

If you are beyond the timeframe for emergency contraception or are concerned about the possibility of pregnancy, the Office on Women's Health explained you could take an at-home pregnancy test as soon as the first day of a missed period. If your periods are irregular, the Office on Women's Health recommends testing four weeks from when you last had sex.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles