Precum is a colorless fluid released by the penis during sexual arousal. It originates in the Cowper’s and Littre glands next to the urethra (below the prostate gland and along the urethra, respectively). Pre-ejaculate acts as a lubricant that allows sperm to easily pass through the urethra and eliminates discomfort during intercourse. It also neutralizes the acidity of both urine and the vagina, which may harm sperm, to establish a more alkaline environment that’s more sperm-friendly.
Although it’s uncommon, it is possible to get pregnant from precum during ovulation. It all depends on whether the precum contains sperm. Research shows that some people produce precum that contains sperm, while others do not. In a 2010 study, 37 percent of pre-ejaculatory fluid samples had a high enough proportion of motile sperm to indicate there was a chance it could fertilize an egg.
Normally, sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to five days. If an egg is released during ovulation in this window, the chances of conception are high. Want to find out when you're likely to be ovulating? Try this ovulation calculator for a prediction based on your cycle.
Pre-ejaculate is released the moment the penis becomes erect, so precum is likely to be present during intercourse, even in the absence of ejaculation. If the pre-ejaculate has any active sperm that make their way into the uterine tubes, pregnancy is possible.
So can you get pregnant from precum while ovulating? Yes.
Lastly, note that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can also be contracted through precum. To protect against STIs and unintended pregnancy, make sure to practice safe sex by using condoms.
Precum can lead to pregnancy even if sex doesn’t happen during ovulation. How does this happen? As mentioned, sperm can survive for up to five days inside the female reproductive tract. If sperm are still alive when ovulation begins, conception can occur.
One option to try to avoid an unplanned pregnancy is to track your cycle with an ovulation test. However, this method isn’t completely effective.
Ovulation tests measure the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), which if particularly high, will trigger ovulation. Ovulation tests can only detect an LH surge 24 to 36 hours before ovulation. The life expectancy of sperm, on the other hand, is much longer than that.
So, having sex before discovering an LH surge could result in pregnancy. That’s why ovulation tracking is an unreliable form of contraception.
Emergency contraception, often referred to as the morning-after pill or post-coital contraception, helps prevent unintended pregnancy. It’s specifically designed for emergencies such as:
- The usual method of birth control has failed.
- A condom breaks during intercourse or wasn’t used.
- Sexual assault occurs.
- A non-placebo birth control pill is missed.
It’s critical to remember that emergency contraception will not cause an abortion or protect against STIs like HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
There are two main types of emergency contraception:
- Morning-after pills
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
The morning-after pill is the most popular type of emergency contraception pill (ECP), and according to studies, it can reduce the chances of pregnancy by 98 percent.
Morning-after pills are classified into two broad categories:
- Pills containing a progestin hormone called levonorgestrel (which is more effective and has fewer side effects than estrogen-progesterone pills). This type of pill should be taken within three days of having unprotected sex.
- Pills containing ulipristal acetate. These pills should be taken within five days of having unprotected sex.
Health care providers can also administer combined oral contraceptives as emergency contraception pills, but they are not as effective as levonorgestrel or ulipristal acetate.
ECPs don’t work for everyone. Research has shown that levonorgestrel has minimal impact on people who are overweight or obese. It’s similarly ineffective if taken five or more days after unprotected sex. Furthermore, patients with chronic underlying conditions (especially those on medication) should seek medical advice before taking ECPs.
Emergency intrauterine devices
Of all the options available, the most effective emergency IUD contraceptive is the copper IUD (also known as the coil). To prevent pregnancy, a health care provider can insert a copper IUD in the uterine cavity within 120 hours (or five days) of unprotected sex.
Copper IUDs work by causing an inflammatory response in the uterus that makes it uninhabitable for sperm and unsuitable for fertilization. Copper IUDs can last for more than five years once inserted.
Although it’s possible to use IUDs at any age to prevent pregnancy, IUDs are not suitable for those with the following conditions:
- Known or suspected pregnancy
- Undiagnosed, abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Cervical cancer
- Current breast cancer (applies only to intrauterine devices that release hormones)
- Pelvic tuberculosis
- Copper allergies or Wilson disease (applies only to copper IUDs)
- Acute cervical, uterine, or salpingeal infection
- History of ectopic pregnancies
- An STI diagnosis in the past three months
- Uterine anomalies or fibroids that distort the uterus
The process of copper IUD contraception is reversible, and once removed, fertility is immediately restored for most people. Copper IUDs for birth control are only available by prescription because they have to be inserted by a qualified health care provider. After the procedure, some people experience mild pain or discomfort, but it should subside fairly quickly.
Certain serious side effects have been associated with copper IUDs, including heavy menstrual bleeding and chronic pain, infections, and damage to the uterus. If these symptoms don’t go away or get worse, it might be necessary to remove the coil.
Even though it’s quite rare, it is possible to get pregnant while on birth control. However, some methods alter the menstrual cycle, so a missed period doesn’t always mean pregnancy.
Several other factors can cause a delayed period, such as changes in diet, illness, stress, or excessive physical activity. If you’re on birth control and miss a period, consider seeing a health care provider or taking a pregnancy test to be sure. Some other symptoms that can indicate pregnancy include:
- Abdominal cramps — Pregnancy cramps often resemble menstrual cramps, so it’s easy to mistake early pregnancy for an impending period.
- Tender breasts — Swollen, tender breasts can indicate both pregnancy and the onset of a period.
If you’re receiving negative pregnancy test results, along with symptoms that point to pregnancy, consult a health care provider.
An ectopic pregnancy displays signs of early pregnancy as well as severe abdominal pain, dizziness, and spotting. It’s an issue that requires immediate attention. A health care provider can perform all the necessary exams and lab work to determine whether it’s an ectopic pregnancy.
Can you get pregnant from precum while ovulating? It’s definitely possible, although it’s not very common. The best defense against unplanned pregnancy is the use of condoms, birth control pills, IUDs, or other forms of contraception.