The chances of getting pregnant from precum are small, but they’re not non-existent.
When it comes to getting pregnant, precum—the fluid that comes out of a penis before full ejaculation—might contain active sperm cells that are capable of fertilizing an egg.
If you’re relying on the withdrawal (or “pullout”) method of birth control, it’s important to be aware of this possibility.
Let’s find out more.
In this article: 📝
- What is “precum”?
- Are there any sperm cells in precum?
- What are the chances of getting pregnant from precum?
- What should you do if you think you might be pregnant?
What is “precum”?
Precum (AKA pre-ejaculate) is, as the name suggests, the fluid that comes out of a penis before cum.
It means that arousal has happened, but full ejaculation hasn’t yet.
When this fluid appears, it’s sometimes called “precumming.”
While precum looks pretty similar to cum, the two kinds of fluid are quite different:
Precum is made in the Cowper’s glands—two tiny glands beneath the prostate gland.
During sexual arousal, precum is sent from the Cowper’s glands to the urethra through lots of tiny tubes.
Precum fluid has two main jobs:
- It neutralizes any acidity in the urethra. Urine is acidic. And after it’s passed through the urethra, some of that acidity can be left behind. Not good news for sperm cells, which also have to use the urethra to exit the body, as they don’t thrive in an acidic environment. Enter precum. This alkaline fluid neutralizes the pH in the urethra so that the sperm cells can pass through it more safely.
- It provides lubrication for sex. Fun fact: the vagina has its own version of the Cowper’s glands, which also make fluid for lubrication. They’re called the Bartholin’s glands, and they sit at either side of your vaginal opening.
Cum, or semen, is the fluid that is ejaculated out of a penis and is mainly made in glands called the seminal vesicles.
Its main job? To provide a medium for sperm cells to swim through and to protect them from the acidic environment of the vagina.
Are there any sperm cells in precum?
So, we know that precum (unlike semen), isn’t designed to carry sperm cells.
But do any sperm cells ever manage to find their way in there?
Scientific evidence is mixed—and there isn’t all that much of it. But the answer seems to be:
Yes, precum does sometimes contain sperm cells. But not very many of them.
One 2016 study found that 17% of the precum samples given by 42 men contained active sperm cells.
And a smaller 2011 study found active sperm cells in 37% of the participants’ samples.
But in other studies, such as this one from 2003, no sperm cells were found in the precum samples at all.
It’s possible that some people always have some sperm cells in their precum, while others never do.
Plus, we still don’t know exactly how the sperm cells get into the precum in the first place.
It may be that they sometimes leak out from the seminal vesicles, where semen is held before ejaculation. More research is needed to find out.
What are the chances of getting pregnant from precum?
Okay, so we’ve found out that precum sometimes contains sperm cells.
Next, the big question: How often can precum cause pregnancy?
Well, we can’t know for sure.
But one way to gain some insight is to look at the stats for pregnancies that happened after the pullout method of birth control was used.
According to Planned Parenthood, four out of 100 women who use the pullout method perfectly will get pregnant.
That means, that for these pregnancies to happen, the sperm would have had to come from somewhere other than semen.
A very likely explanation? The precum contained a few sperm cells.
And one of these made it through to fertilize the egg.
What are the chances of getting pregnant from precum during ovulation?
During ovulation, your chances of getting pregnant from precum will be at their highest, as you’ve got an egg ready and available to be fertilized.
But sperm cells can actually survive inside your body for up to five days after you’ve had sex.
So, having precum inside your vagina a few days before you ovulate could still possibly result in pregnancy.
The chances are just very slim.
What should you do if you think you might be pregnant?
If you think you might be pregnant after using the pullout method, the best thing to do is to take a pregnancy test.
It’s a good idea to wait until after your next expected period, so that you up the chances of getting an accurate result.
If you do get a positive result, make an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as you can, to talk through your options.
And if you need some support along the way, check-in with your Peanut community. Wherever you’re at, you’re not alone.
💡 More from The 411:
Can You Get Pregnant Right Before Your Period?
Can You Get Pregnant Right After Your Period?
How Long Does it Take to Get Pregnant After Sex?
Can You Get Pregnant Without Having Sex?
Can You Get Pregnant After Ovulation?
Can You Get Pregnant If You’re Not Ovulating?
Can You Get Pregnant While Breastfeeding?
Getting Pregnant After the Covid Vaccine: The Facts
Pregnant After Vasectomy: What are the Chances?
Can You Get Pregnant While Pregnant?