What Is Precum?

Fluid Exuded by the Penis During Arousal

Precum is a fluid produced by the male reproductive tract during sexual stimulation before climax. It exits the urethra and is often found on the tip of the penis during sexual arousal. It is a clear lubricant that prepares the urethra for the climax and looks similar to semen.

Precum is different from ejaculate, which is a white substance that comes out of the penis during a climax and contains sperm in a fertile person. If the urethra is lubricated, the sperm can more easily be ejected.

Precum is a fluid produced involuntarily that is exuded from the penis when it is aroused, before climax. It can be a natural lubricant during sex. It is also called pre-ejaculate, pre-seminal fluid, or Cowper’s fluid.

Wearing a condom can reduce risks from precum and semen
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Where Does Precum Come From? 

Precum does not come from the testes (where sperm are produced) but from the Cowper’s glands, which do not house any sperm. These are a pair of pea-sized glands (1/2 inch in diameter) located near the urethra, to which they are connected by ducts. They produce alkaline mucus which is released into the urethra during arousal.

The amount of precum that exists in a person's body ranges from individual to individual. On average, most people leak 4 milliliters (ml) of fluid. However, everyone produces a different amount of precum and it shouldn’t be a concern as to how much you produce. In fact, many people barely even notice it. 

Function

Pre-ejaculate neutralizes acidity in the urethra tract and provides lubricant for sexual intercourse. Urine can kill sperm cells as they are sensitive to pH levels. Precum cleans out the pathway for sperm.

Precum is also a natural lubricant for sexual intercourse. In this way, it is similar to the alkaline mucus secreted by the pea-sized Bartholin glands of the female reproductive system. The Bartholin glands, in conjunction with the Skene's glands, provide lubricant to the vagina and the vaginal wall near the urethra.

Can Precum Result in Pregnancy? 

Although precum does not come from the testes, it may contain some live sperm. Researchers have found that if a person has a previous sexual encounter, the precum can contain sperm from semen remaining in the urethra. This is considered cross-contamination, as both precum and semen travel through the urethra.

Because of this, the chances of pregnancy from precum are low but still possible. In one study, 41% of men had precum that contained sperm that was moving. This means the sperm could reach the fallopian tubes and possibly fertilize an egg.

This is why the pull-out method (also called coitus interruptus or withdrawal) is not suggested when trying to avoid pregnancy. A 2017 study found that there was a 20% failure rate with the withdrawal method compared to 13% for condoms and 6% for hormonal birth control.

If a penis with precum is only in contact with the outside of the vulva, the chances of pregnancy are very unlikely. However, it still may be possible.

If you think you may be pregnant from precum, an embryo takes 10 days to implant itself. Take a test after a week to see if you are pregnant. If you continue having sex without protection, and are concerned about precum and pregnancy, consider emergency contraception.

Forms of emergency contraception include the ParaGuard IUD, which can be implanted within five days of unprotected sex and prevent pregnancy. The morning-after pill, or Plan B, is emergency birth control that can be purchased at a local pharmacy without a prescription. It needs to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

If you plan on having intercourse regularly by using the pull-out method, talk to your gynecologist about what would work best for you and your options of long-term birth control.

Sexually Transmitted Disease Risk

Precum can carry bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that produce sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It’s always best to use a condom for any sexual contact with another person and to get tested regularly to ensure you are safe and healthy.

HIV

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) lives in blood, vaginal fluid, semen, breast milk, and precum. If you’re having sex (including vaginal or anal sex) with someone who is HIV positive, protect yourself by wearing condoms and taking Truvada, otherwise known as PrEP. The antiretroviral drug reduces HIV transmission risk by 44%.

If you have unprotected sex, be sure you’re getting tested regularly for HIV. Symptoms of HIV are flu-like symptoms that can appear as fever, chills, headache, sore throat, fatigue, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers.

Chlamydia

The bacteria that cause chlamydia can live in vaginal fluid, semen, and precum. Many people don’t show symptoms of chlamydia. Symptoms may include vaginal discharge, itching, burning, pain during sex, and painful urination. It is the most common STD in the U.S. It can be treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhea

This is another common bacterial infection that can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, and precum with few to no symptoms. If you have symptoms such as yellow vagina discharge, itching, burning, redness, or pain during sex or urination, make sure to get tested. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be easily cleared up with antibiotics.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a highly infectious virus that affects the liver. It is the only strain of hepatitis that can be transmitted through precum. Symptoms typically show up a few months after transmission and include joint pain, fever, nausea, fatigue, weakness, and jaundice.

There is treatment for Hepatitis B, but no cure. Most cases clear up in a few months while others can take medication that slows down the liver damage.

A Word From Verywell

Precum is a natural release when someone is sexually aroused, and you should expect to see it before or during sexual activity. If the discharge is green or yellow, painful, or itching, you may need to seek out a doctor’s guidance as to whether it is an STD or not.

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about precum, it’s imperative to take care of your sexual health by wearing a condom or considering birth control to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancy or an STD.

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