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Health Library

    What Is Precum? And Can It Get You Pregnant?

    Updated 23 February 2023 |
    Published 09 December 2021
    Fact Checked
    Dr. Nazaneen Homaifar
    Reviewed by Dr. Nazaneen Homaifar, Obstetrician and gynecologist, Inova Health System, Washington, DC, US
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    Many couples rely on withdrawal as a method of contraception — but just how safe is it? Find out what precum is and the real risks of getting pregnant from it.

    The pullout method, or withdrawal method, has shown to be one of the least effective methods of contraception, but lots of us are still using it to avoid pregnancy. 

    In fact, a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 60% of the female population in the US (or their partners) have used the withdrawal method at least once. This makes it one of the most common methods of contraception. And a 2015 study revealed that 7% of female and 6% of male respondents claim that withdrawal is their only method of contraception during sexual intercourse. 

    Even though the pullout method might seem convenient, it carries a few risks that could result in some major inconveniences (to put it mildly). The withdrawal method doesn’t provide protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). And even if your partner pulls out before ejaculation, you may still be exposed to sperm cells in the form of precum. This is why, yes, you can get pregnant from precum.

    So, what is precum? And why isn’t the pullout method a reliable method of birth control? We asked the experts.

    Flo can help you understand when you’re most likely to get pregnant

    What is precum?

    Precum, also known as “pre-ejaculate fluid,” is the liquid that sometimes appears at the tip of the penis before ejaculation. This can happen at any time during sexual arousal. 

    Contrary to what lots of people think, precum isn’t actually the same thing as semen — even if it looks a lot like it. So, where does it come from? Well, precum is produced in the pea-sized Cowper’s glands and is made up of enzymes and mucus. So, in its purest form, precum doesn’t actually contain any living sperm cells at all. However, the problem is that precum often becomes contaminated with sperm during sexual arousal — more on that below.

    Why is precum produced?

    Precum actually has quite an important job to do. It helps the urethra (the tube that transports sperm and urine) prepare to ejaculate semen. 

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