What Is Precum?

Precum is a clear fluid produced by a male before climax. It exits the urethra, the same tube urine uses to leave the body, and is often found on the tip of the penis during sexual arousal.

Precum helps sperm travel more easily out of the body and can be a natural lubricant during sex.

It looks similar to semen, which is the white fluid that comes out of the penis during a climax. While precum itself does not contain sperm, it can pick up any that might be left in the urethra as it is passing through.

Also Known As

  • Pre-ejaculate
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Cowper’s fluid
Wearing a condom can reduce risks from precum and semen
bagi1998 / E+ / Getty Images

Where Does Precum Come From? 

Precum comes from the Cowper’s glands. This pair of pea-sized glands are half an inch in diameter and connected to the urethra by ducts.

What Does Precum Do?

Sperm cells can be killed by the pH in urine. And since ejaculate and urine exit the body through the same tube, it's possible that sperm could be affected by its acidity level.

Pre-ejaculate is an alkaline mucus, meaning it can neutralize acidity in the urethra. This clears the way for sperm to travel safely.

Precum is also a natural lubricant for sexual intercourse. In this way, it is similar to the vaginal mucus secreted by women when they are aroused.

How Much Precum Is Normal?

The amount of precum someone produces varies and has no significance.

On average, most people leak up to 4 milliliters (ml) of fluid. Many people barely notice it at all.

Can Precum Make You Pregnant? 

Sperm, what fertilizes an egg, are produced in the testes. Although precum is produced in the Cowper’s glands, it still may contain trace amounts of live sperm.

Researchers have found that if a person has had a very recent sexual encounter and then has another, precum can mix with sperm that is still left in the urethra. This is called cross-contamination.

The chances of pregnancy due to precum entering the female body are low, but they still exist. If precum comes in contact with the outside of the vulva, the chances of pregnancy are very unlikely. However, it may still be possible.

In one study, 41% of men had precum that contained sperm that was moving. This means the sperm could reach a female's Fallopian tubes and possibly fertilize an egg.

This is why withdrawal (more commonly called the pull-out method) 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 You Think You May Be Pregnant

An embryo takes 10 days to implant itself. If you think you may be pregnant from precum, take a test after that period of time.

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 to 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.

Recap

Precum and semen both exit through the ureter. Precum itself doesn't contain sperm, but it can mix with leftover ejaculate from a prior sexual encounter on its way out, which can cause pregnancy. Birth control can minimize your risks of getting pregnant from precum.

Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections

Precum can carry bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing organisms that produce sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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.

If you are experiencing a discharge that is green or yellow, painful, or itching, see a doctor to determine whether it is an STI.

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) with someone who is HIV-positive, protect yourself by wearing condoms and taking Truvada, otherwise known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This 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 and can include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, fatigue, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is the most common STI in the U.S. The bacteria that cause it can live in vaginal fluid, semen, and precum.

Many people don’t show symptoms of chlamydia. When symptoms do occur, they can include vaginal or penile discharge, itching, burning, pain during sex, and painful urination.

Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is another common bacterial infection that can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, and precum.

It also produces few to no symptoms. If you have symptoms such as yellow vaginal or penile 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; there is also medication that can slow down liver damage.

Recap

Precum can transmit sexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and HIV. Take steps to protect yourself during intercourse and get tested for STIs.

Summary

Precum plays an key role in arousal and intercourse. By neutralizing acid and lubricating the urethra, precum makes it easier for semen to leave the body during orgasm.

Precum, however, can still contain sperm and may carry organisms that cause sexually transmitted infections.

It's important to take precautions to avoid getting infected. And if a potential pregnancy is a concern, use contraception whenever you have sex—even if there is no ejaculation.

A Word From Verywell

Precum is not the same as ejaculate, but it isn't without any risks.

In addition to using condoms to prevent STIs and other forms birth control to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancy, if applicable, have an open and honest conversation with your partner(s) about their sexual and testing history.

This is best done before you have a sexual encounter of any kind. But if you're beyond that point already, it's never too late. This is especially important if you're not sure if they have other sex partners.

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7 Sources
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