Can You Get Pregnant from Precum: Your Chances Based On Science

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Can You Get Pregnant from Precum: Your Chances Based On Science
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The clear sticky fluid that precedes ejaculation is referred to as precum or pre-ejaculate. Even though precum itself doesn’t contain sperm, there is still a chance to get pregnant from this pre-ejaculatory substance. Pregnancy can occur because sperm in the penis before ejaculation can mix with precum and fertilize an egg.

Of course, the chances of getting pregnant using the withdrawal method are relatively small. However, because sperm has been detected in pre-ejaculate, pregnancy is certainly possible. It is also important to remember that precum also contains more than just sperm. So, having unprotected sex, even using the pulling out method, can still result in a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

In this article, I will examine what scientific research reveals as to your odds of getting pregnant from precum. You will also find out about the risks involved in having unprotected sex if you want to avoid pregnancy or getting an STI.

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What is Precum?

Precum is a common term for what the medical profession refers to as pre-ejaculate fluid or pre-seminal fluid.

The journal Human Fertility reports that pre-ejaculatory fluid is excreted from the tip of the penis prior to ejaculation. Precum contains mucus and various enzymes that help to lubricate the urethra just before ejaculating semen. This type of penile secretion during sexual arousal is about 4 mL in volume.1

Precum comes from the Cowper’s glands in the urethra and, therefore, is also referred to as Cowper’s fluid.

There is much confusion if precum does contain sperm or not. For example, a study from 1993 stated that researchers didn’t find any traces of mobile sperm in precum when they were testing the fluid for the HIV virus.2

Does precum contain sperm?

Most studies on the contents of precum have found that the viscous fluid does indeed contain live, mobile sperm that could result in pregnancy.

For example, the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand in 2016 reported that precum fluid containing active sperm was detected in 16% of tested males.3

The study published in the journal Human Fertility found that nearly 40% of precum samples contained a reasonable proportion of sperm that was motile. Therefore, most doctors still recommend wearing a condom during sexual contact to prevent transmitting STDs or getting pregnant.1

What does precum look like?

Precum may resemble semen but it is a thinner fluid that is clear and sticky. The International Journal of Andrology says that fluid from the Cowper’s gland looks like a thick, clear, mucus-type fluid. The fluid will have a slippery wet texture that may feel sticky to touch.4

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Precum is usually transparent like water, only of a thicker consistency. It is usually seen on the tip of the penis when a man is sexually aroused. Precum can be released just before ejaculation or it could appear sometime before sexual climax is achieved.

Chances of Getting Pregnant from Precum: Can Precum Cause Pregnancy?

Even though the chances of getting pregnant from pre-ejaculatory fluid are low, the pulling out method is not effective in preventing pregnancy. Your chances of conceiving involve the timing of ovulation and the availability of mobile sperm in the uterus or cervix.

Doctors from the National Health Service (NHS) report that as soon as the penis becomes erect, precum is produced. This clear mucus-like fluid has the potential to contain thousands of virile sperm. It is also impossible to control when precum is produced, how much comes out, and when precum is secreted from the penis.5

Therefore, it is likely that you could get pregnant from precum without any ejaculation taking place. Precum contains sperm that can live long enough to fertilize an egg in the cervix. This means that the “pull out” or the withdrawal method of birth control is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy.

There is even a very slight chance to get pregnant from precum while still on your period.

In fact, the journal Human Fertility stated that most men leak active sperm in precum, and this appears to be released just before ejaculation. The sperm levels in precum fluid were not attributed to “leftover” semen from a previous ejaculation.1

It is also possible to get pregnant from precum without the penis penetrating the vagina. Doctors from the NHS report that precum fluid from the penis can cause pregnancy without having sex if it is in contact near the vagina. However, the chances of becoming pregnant from precum being near the vaginal opening are very low.5

Can precum get you pregnant when you are not ovulating?

Even when you are not ovulating, you can still become pregnant if precum is in your vagina. This is because precum contains sperm that can live a few days in your body. If you ovulate while the sperm is still viable, you can get pregnant.

The reason that precum can result in pregnancy even when you are not ovulating yet is connected to the days when you are most fertile. A study published in the journal BMJ reported that only about 30% of women are fertile entirely within days 10 and 17 of their cycle.

However most women reach their fertile window earlier and others much later. The study concluded that the timing of women’s fertile window can be highly unpredictable, even if their cycles are usually regular.7

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Therefore, if you have unprotected sex using the pulling out method several days before or after your perceived ovulation date, it is still possible to become pregnant. When using the pulling out method, precum can still be released. The precum contains sperm which may live long enough to fertilize a mature egg. Since it’s hard to predict the exact date of ovulation, there is always a chance of getting pregnant from a precum.6

How Effective is the Pulling Out Method? Can it Cause Pregnancy?

One of the main reasons that the pulling out method isn’t an effective method of contraception or STI prevention is that men can’t control precum. Some men produce more pre-ejaculate than others, and sometimes this precum leaves the penis before ejaculation occurs.

A study published in the journal Conception reported that around 12% of women reported using the “withdrawal” method as their only method of contraception.8 However, up to 60% of women report using the pulling out method along with another birth control method.9

Is there evidence to suggest that despite using the pulling out method, pregnancy can still happen? In another study published in the journal Contraception, researchers found that just under 20% of women who use the pulling out method as birth control will become pregnant within a year.10

However, some reports do suggest that, if used properly, the pulling out method could be used as birth control.

For example, a study was carried out on the effectiveness of various birth control methods. It found that, when done correctly, only 4% of women whose partners pulled out before ejaculation became pregnant in the first year. This is only 2% more than women who became pregnant and whose partners used a condom during sex for protection.11

Can You Get Pregnant from Grinding or Dry Humping?

Dry humping describes sexual activity where no penetration takes place and there is no exchange of body fluids, for example, precum, vaginal secretions, or semen. Dry humping or grinding usually takes place by rubbing the genitals together with some form of clothing on. Some researchers refer to grinding or dry humping as a type of “outercourse.”

The chances of getting pregnant from dry humping with your clothes on are very slim. Any precum or even sperm that are released is usually released away from the body or absorbed in clothing. In fact, the journal Sex Health reports that some couples use forms of “outercourse” as a contraceptive method where no penetration is involved and ejaculation happens away from the vagina.12

However, chances of getting pregnant from dry humping increase if you dry hump without any clothes on. As already stated by doctors from the National Health Service, any precum fluid or ejaculate that comes into contact with the vaginal opening has the potential to result in pregnancy.5 However, the chances of getting pregnant by dry humping naked are very slim indeed.

So, you probably can’t get pregnant from dry humping, but, in some circumstances, a chance could still exist.

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Can You Contract an STI from Precum?

As well as having sperm, precum also has the potential to pass on sexually transmitted infections. Therefore, using the pulling out method is an unsafe method to reduce your chances of contracting an STI.

The journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases reports that the withdrawal method (coitus interruptus) can’t protect against STIs. Researchers found that couples practicing the pulling out method are still at risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections. The study recommended the use of condoms for the full duration of sexual intercourse to provide the best protection from STIs.13

Precum can also contain the HIV virus and be transmitted through vaginal penetration even though no ejaculation occurs. The journal AIDS reported that precum may play a role in the transmission of HIV-1. Very often, swabs of precum taken for testing contain detectable traces of the human immunodeficiency virus.14

When to Take a Pregnancy Test?

If you have used the pulling out method as a form of contraception and your period is late, you are probably wondering when to take a pregnancy test.

Home pregnancy testing kits test levels of hCG hormone (human chorionic gonadotropin) that appear in urine after you become pregnant. According to information published in the journal Human Reproduction, many home pregnancy kits claim to give accurate pregnancy results about 7 days after implantation. However, some home testing kits claim to be accurate as soon as 3 or 4 days after implantation.14

There are 4 factors to keep in mind to help avoid getting a false-negative result from the testing kit. According to Dr. Traci C. Johnson on WebMD, these factors include:19

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  • Testing too early. Taking the pregnancy test too early usually results in a false negative pregnancy test. According to a report from Germany in 2014, most home pregnancy testing kits should be 99% accurate when taken a day or two after the missed period.15 
  • Accuracy of the home testing pregnancy kit. Research has shown that the accuracy of pregnancy kits is often lower than claimed. Sometimes, not performing the test at home properly can show a negative result even though you are pregnant.
  • You took the test the wrong way
  • Your urine is diluted

Related article: When to Take a Pregnancy Test to Avoid False Negative or False Positive Results

First Signs of Pregnancy

It is sometimes possible to spot the first signs of pregnancy even before your missed period. Of course, only a positive pregnancy test at home or at the doctor’s office will confirm pregnancy. However, there are subtle changes that take place in your body at the start of pregnancy.

According to doctors from the Mayo Clinic, some of the early signs of pregnancy can include:16

When to See a Doctor

Because there is a chance that precum can result in pregnancy or you can catch an STI from pre-ejaculatory fluid, you may need to see a doctor for certain symptoms.

If a home pregnancy test shows a positive result, there is every chance that you are pregnant. Your doctor will take another test to confirm pregnancy. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health say that early prenatal care is essential to ensure a healthy pregnancy and prevent birth complications.17

If you have had unprotected sex using the pull out method and think you may have an STI, then it’s important to see a doctor. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that sexually transmitted infections can cause some of the following symptoms:18

Related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. Hum Fertil (Camb). 2011 Mar; 14(1): 48–52.
  2. Contracept Technol Update.1993 Oct;14(10):154-6.
  3. J Med Assoc Thai.2016 Feb;99 Suppl 2:S38-41.
  4. Int J Androl.2005 Apr;28(2):74-7.
  5. NHS. Can I get pregnant if I have sex without penetration?
  6. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
  7. BMJ. 2000 Nov 18; 321(7271): 1259–1262.
  8. Contraception. 2014 Oct;90(4):416-21.
  9. CDC. Contraceptive methods women have ever used.
  10. Contraception. 2009; 79: 407-140.
  11. Contraception. 2011 May; 83(5): 397–404.
  12. Sex Health. 2008 Dec; 5(4): 321-330.
  13. Sex Transm Dis. 2009 Apr; 36(4): 218–220.
  14. Hum Reprod.1992 May;7(5):701-10.
  15. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014 Jul; 74(7): 661–669.
  16. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
  17. NICHD. What is prenatal care and why is it so important?
  18. MayoClinic. Sexually transmitted disease (STD) symptoms.
  19. WebMD. Pregnancy tests.
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