Can you get pregnant from precum? All your questions answered!
We’ve all heard rumors like, “you can’t get pregnant from precum” and “precum doesn’t even have sperm”.
But is there actually any truth behind these rumors?
To help, we’re here to detangle the facts and answer all your uncomfortable questions. In this article, you’ll learn all about what precum is, why it may contain sperm, and how you can still get pregnant even if your partner “pulls out”.
Ready? Let’s go!
What is precum?
Precum, or “pre-ejaculate fluid”, is a type of liquid that comes out of a penis during arousal but before ejaculation.
Although precum may look similar to semen (which is the white liquid released during ejaculation containing sperm), it’s important to note that they are two completely different types of fluid. Unlike semen which is produced in the testes, precum is produced by the accessory sex glands (the Cowper’s, Littre, and Morgagni glands) and released from the urethra. Its purpose? To create a friendly environment for sperm during sex while also acting as a natural lubricant.
On average, the amount of precum produced during arousal/sex is less than 4 mL. Amounts do vary, however, with some individuals producing more or less than others.
Is there sperm in precum?
Precum itself does not technically contain any sperm. However, it’s very important to understand that it can contain sperm in some cases. Why? Because it’s possible for sperm to remain present around the urethra from previous ejaculations. It can then mix in with precum at the next time of arousal.
In fact, in a 2010 research study of 27 pre-ejaculatory samples, motile sperm was present in 37% of cases. Even though the chances of precum containing sperm are technically “low”, it is still possible to become pregnant at any time during unprotected sex – even before ejaculation.
It is impossible for an individual to know whether or not their precum contains sperm (unless it has been regularly tested for research purposes). Therefore, if you are actively trying to avoid pregnancy, it’s important to have a backup birth control method in place for the entire duration of intercourse.
No sperm = no pregnancy?
Yes. Technically, if there is no sperm present, it is not possible to get pregnant. However, individuals should bear in mind that although precum in its purest form does not contain sperm, it can still be contaminated with residual sperm from previous ejaculations. Therefore, pregnancy is possible at any time during unprotected intercourse.
What is the withdrawal method?
The withdrawal method, also knowns as the “pull-out method” or “coitus interruptus”, occurs when the penis is inserted into the vagina during intercourse but taken out before ejaculation. The aim is to prevent sperm from entering the vagina in order to prevent pregnancy.
Is the withdrawal method effective for preventing pregnancy?
The withdrawal method is approximately 80% effective at preventing pregnancy. This is much less effective when compared to other forms of birth control. For example, the pill is around 91% effective with typical use and condoms and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are around 98% and 99% effective, respectively.
There are two primary factors that can cause the withdrawal method to fail. The first is the risk of pulling out too late due to poor timing or self-control. The second is the potential risk of precum containing sperm from previous ejaculations.
To mitigate the risk of unwanted pregnancy when using the withdrawal method, many doctors recommend that couples utilize a backup form of birth control when having intercourse. For example, it is often recommended to use the withdrawal method in addition to condoms, spermicide, or the pill. It is also possible to use the pull-out method alongside natural family planning techniques.
Are there any other risks involved when using the withdrawal method?
Yes. It’s important to be aware of the fact that the withdrawal method does not prevent against the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, mycoplasma genitalium, and human papillomavirus (HPV), to name a few.
The only way to prevent STDs and STIs during intercourse is to use a barrier method of birth control, such as condoms. It is highly discouraged to use the withdrawal method with new sexual partners, especially if their sexual history and STI/STD status are unknown.
Can you get pregnant from precum if you aren’t ovulating?
Yes. It is still possible to get pregnant from precum even if you’re not ovulating. This is because sperm can live inside your body for up to five days. So in a hypothetical scenario, even if you are not ‘fertile’ on the day you have unprotected sex, there is still a possibility that you could enter your fertile window within the next five days and be able to get pregnant from any lingering sperm inside the body.
What is the fertile window?
The fertile window includes the four to five days leading up to ovulation and the day of ovulation. It typically occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle, and it is when an ovulating individual is able to get pregnant.
What is the ovulation window?
The ovulation window is the period of time around ovulation. It is usually between 24 to 36 hours, and it occurs at the end of the fertile window. Individuals are considered at “peak” fertility around ovulation, meaning they are the most likely to get pregnant.
How can you keep track of your fertile window and day of ovulation?
There are a number of different methods for tracking your fertile window and ovulation day. Some of the most common methods include the basal body temperature (BBT) method, the cervical mucus method, the calendar/rhythm method, ovulation predictor kits (OPKs), and advanced hormone tracking systems like Mira.
To learn more about tracking your fertile window, check out our article Fertility Awareness Methods for Natural Family Planning.
I had unprotected sex and could be pregnant. When should I test for pregnancy?
The earliest you can take a pregnancy test is the first day of your next missed period. Or, if you track ovulation, the test should be taken no sooner than 12 days past ovulation (DPO). If you test any earlier than this, you could receive a negative result even though you are actually pregnant.
There are also a few early signs and symptoms to look out for in early pregnancy, even as easily as 6 DPO. These symptoms may include implantation bleeding, light cramping, mood swings, headache, nausea, breast tenderness, and lower backaches.
For more information on the best time to take a pregnancy test, check out our article When to Take a Pregnancy Test Based on Science and Ovulation.
To sum it up – yes, you can in fact get pregnant from precum.
This means that if you are actively trying to avoid getting pregnant, the withdrawal or “pull out” method of birth control is not a suitable option for preventing pregnancy, unless of course it is used alongside another form of birth control.
If you and your partner have been using the withdrawal method but you want to start using a more reliable form of birth control, this can feel like a tricky situation to navigate. To help, here are a few tips to ensure that the conversation goes smoothly.
Get to know your cycle and the science of conception
Getting better acquainted with your cycle is one of the most powerful things you can do for your sexual health. By tracking your cycle and fertile window, you can know when your body is most likely to get pregnant and plan your birth control method accordingly.
It’s also important that your partner understands the risks involved when using the withdrawal method. While they may have heard from others that precum does not contain sperm, it’s important to clarify to them that precum can still contain sperm from past ejaculations.
Be honest with yourself and your partner
When it comes to your expectations for sex and pregnancy, it is absolutely critical that you are honest with both yourself and your partner – even though it can feel uncomfortable!
Many individuals prefer the withdrawal method because it’s free and it feels better than condoms. However, this shouldn’t come at the cost of their partner feeling uncomfortable or worried about getting pregnant. Both parties should always be in agreement about the birth control preferences used during intercourse if avoiding pregnancy is the goal.