Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more

One thing led to another during #NetflixAndChill, and you found yourself in the position (or many positions) of dodging pregnancy. Although most of us know the — ahem — ins and outs of what it takes to make a baby, curiosity (and obsessive period trackers) want to know: Can you get pregnant from precum?

Well, yes, it’s possible. Precum — the clear fluid the penis secretes well before an orgasm — can cause an unexpected pregnancy. So what exactly are the risks of the pull-out method, and how likely is a precum pregnancy? Here’s the deal.

can you get pregnant from precumShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Brittany England

Precum (also known as pre-ejaculate or Cowper’s fluid) is a clear fluid that leaks out of a penis during arousal. It shouldn’t be confused with semen, the sperm-filled fluid released during the “Big O.”

It’s produced by glands in the urethra (not the testes, where sperm comes from) and acts as a natural lubricant to help move things along. Basically, precum is the first smattering of slow claps building up to ejaculation’s thunderous applause.

Precum doesn’t contain sperm, but don’t get too comfy with it. You’re still flirting with the danger of unplanned pregnancy.

Yes, precum can cause pregnancy — if you aren’t using a form of contraception. While precum doesn’t usually contain sperm, that doesn’t mean a few swimmers can’t get caught in there.

A 2016 study found that there could be sperm present in pre-ejaculate.

Sperm chilling in the urethra from prior good times can be swept up and released in the pre-ejaculate fluid. And some research from that study has shown that any sperm present in precum may be rip-roaring and ready to go when it comes to making a baby.

While there hasn’t been a lot of research into the topic (one review from 2014 even noted the lack of studies available), we can estimate that the risk is low by looking at the efficacy rate for the pull-out method. That being said, low risk doesn’t mean no risk!

Some novice “sexperts” believe urinating before having sex will flush out any wayward swimmers, since there are fewer sperm in precum. However, there’s not enough research to support this idea. While precum itself doesn’t contain sperm, it facilitates the transmission of sperm to a partner.

Unintentional pregnancy is also a factor if the condom breaks (which is super easy to miss!), fingering after other sexy time activities, or if you’re switching it up to anal sex after pulling out.

The point: If a 🍆 is in or anywhere near a 🌮, pregnancy is a possibility. This might be bad news for those using the pull-out method without other contraception.

Looking at pregnancy rates with the withdrawal method (aka pulling out) is the closest way to estimate.

According to Planned Parenthood, 4 out of every 100 people who use the pull-out method properly will still get pregnant. And considering that most peeps aren’t perfect, the number jumps to 1 in 5 (😰).

If that’s not alarming enough, sperm can live in a woman’s body for up to 5 days. So even if an egg isn’t present during sexy time, you still might find yourself with a kiddo in 9 months.

Not surprisingly, certain medical conditions, like menopause and infertility, reduce or eliminate the risk.

For better or worse, the pull-out method is a common one to avoid pregnancy. In fact, the 2013 National Health Statistics Report from the CDC found that 60 percent of women in the United States had used this method at some point.

The success of the withdrawal method requires following the main rule: The penis must be pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation. Additionally, this method may be ineffective if a woman has an unpredictable menstrual cycle.

According to the CDC, this method is 78 percent effective if used perfectly (compared to 82 percent for condoms, 91 percent for the pill, and 99 percent for an IUD).

Precum containing sperm, poor climactic timing, lack of self-control, and unpredictable fertility cycles all decrease the effectiveness of this method, increasing the chance of being among the roughly 1 in 5 unplanned “pull-out” pregnancies.

Consider a backup emergency contraceptive (EC) if you’re relying on the pull-out method to prevent pregnancy. One popular form of EC is Plan B hormonal contraceptive pills, which you take within the first few days after intercourse.

According to Planned Parenthood, some EC pills can be taken up to 5 days after sexual activity without any decrease in effectiveness. But some pills are most effective when taken within 72 hours of a sexy time slip-up. Also note that effectiveness of emergency contraception decreases with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30.

Another option is the copper intrauterine device (IUD). A copper IUD is a small, T-shaped form of contraception placed into the uterus. The copper acts as a sperm repellent, making fertilization difficult.

This device can prevent unwanted pregnancy if inserted into the vagina within 5 days after sex. As a bonus, it remains an effective birth control method for up to 12 years. How’s that for peace of mind?

FYI

The pull-out method and emergency contraceptives don’t prevent the transmission of STIs. Practicing safer sex is just as important as preventing unwanted pregnancies.

If you suspect a precum pregnancy, take a home pregnancy test and give your gyno a call.

Although precum doesn’t naturally contain sperm, it can still cause pregnancy by transporting lingering sperm to an egg.

To fully prevent pregnancy, account for the risk precum poses if you’re using the withdrawal method. And remember that emergency contraception is an effective option if taken right away. May the odds be ever in your favor.