Precum doesn’t contain sperm, but don’t get too comfy with it if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy.
Precum doesn’t usually contain sperm, but a small study found sperm in precum.
Basically, when pre-ejaculate fluid travels through the urethra, there’s a chance it picks up any sperm hanging out in the urethra after sex or masturbation.
So, while precum itself doesn’t contain sperm, it can facilitate the transmission of sperm to a partner.
The point: If a “P” is in or anywhere near a “V,” pregnancy is possible. For example, this might affect people using the pull-out method without other contraception.
Precum (aka 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.
While there hasn’t been a lot of research on sperm in precum (one 2014 research review even noted the lack of studies available), it’s estimated that the risk of a precum pregnancy is low. But low risk doesn’t mean no risk.
Looking at pregnancy rates with the withdrawal method (aka pulling out) is the closest way to estimate your odds of getting pregnant from precum.
Compared to other birth control methods, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the pull-out 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).
But Planned Parenthood estimates 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 😰.
Sperm can actually live in a woman’s body for up to 5 days. So, even if you’re not ovulating, sperm hitching a ride in precum can wait around for when you do ovulate.
Ovulation typically happens toward the middle of the menstrual cycle, which is about 14 days before you start your next period.
This can vary, especially if you have irregular periods. But generally, you can get pregnant during the 5 days before and the day after ovulation.
So, even if your partner’s pulling out during this fertile window, you might find yourself with a kiddo in 9 months thanks to any lingering sperm in precum.
If you’re worried the pull-out method has failed you, you might want to consider a backup emergency contraceptive (EC).
One popular form of EC is Plan B hormonal contraceptive pills, which you take within the first few days after sex without a condom or other barrier method.
According to Planned Parenthood, some EC pills can be taken up to 5 days after sex. But some pills are most effective when taken within 72 hours. Also, it’s worth noting 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 pregnancy if inserted into the uterus within 5 days after sex. As a bonus, it remains an effective birth control method for up to 12 years.
FYI on STIs
The pull-out method and emergency contraceptives don’t prevent the transmission of STIs. Preventing STI transmission is just as important as preventing pregnancies. Talk with your partner(s) about having sex with a condom or other barrier method to prevent STI transmission.
If you’re also worried about STIs, there are easy ways to access STI testing, including at-home STI tests.
If you think you might be pregnant, taking an at-home pregnancy test can help you know for sure.
Usually the earliest you can take a pregnancy test is the first day after your missed period. But it’s more accurate if you wait a week after your missed period.
You should also give your gyno a call if you think you might be pregnant.
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 to prevent pregnancy if taken right away.