Julie Medical Advisor
Can pre-cum get you pregnant?
If you’re having sex, or thinking about having sex, pre-cum might be on your radar. But what is it, anyways? With the help of our medical advisor, Dr. Margo Harrison, we’re setting the record straight about what pre-cum is and whether or not it can get you pregnant.
What is pre-cum?
Pre-cum, also referred to as pre-ejaculation, is a small amount of fluid that secretes from the penis after arousal (AKA, getting turned on). It’s an involuntary body function that responds to stimulation, causing fluid to come out of a penis before ejaculation. Its biological purpose is to provide lubrication during sex, similar to how sexual arousal can cause the vulva and clitoris to swell and the vagina to lubricate itself, or what we usually think of as “getting wet.”
Pre-cum is a thin clear liquid that is produced by the accessory glands in the penis. Naturally, it doesn’t contain any sperm, but it can mix with sperm that’s still present in the urethra. And whether it’s before or during vaginal penetration, pre-cum is often something you can’t feel happening or control.
Even though pre-cum’s impact on your sexual health and the likeliness of getting pregnant can be kind of confusing, here’s some key info to keep in mind so you can protect yourself from STIs and prevent pregnancy.
Can you get pregnant from pre-cum?
Yes, it is possible to become pregnant from pre-cum. Misformation has led people to believe that pre-cum does not contain any sperm. This is false, and research from the past decade has shown that sperm can be present in pre-cum.
It only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg, so even if pre-cum has a small amount of sperm in it and it enters the vagina, it could still fertilize an egg and lead to a pregnancy.
The following scenarios look at the likelihood of becoming pregnant after exposure to pre-cum:
- While using an IUD: IUDs are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, making them one of the best regular birth control options. IUDs are so effective because they’re implanted within the uterus, lowering the chance of user error. Unlike birth control pills, you won’t forget to take it because it’s already in you. Because it’s so effective at preventing pregnancy, IUDs can also prevent pregnancy from pre-cum at the same rate.
- While on birth control: Birth control pills, also called oral contraception, are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. When taken correctly, they can significantly reduce your chance of becoming pregnant from pre-cum or ejaculation.
- While using a condom: Condoms, when used faultlessly, are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. But user error can be high with condoms. It can slip, leak, tear, or fall off. The typical use average is about 87% effective at preventing pregnancy. Approximately 15 out of every 100 people who rely on condoms as their only birth control get pregnant in any given year.
- After vasectomy: After a vasectomy, there is a .24% risk of failure, which would require doing the procedure again. Following the procedure, doctors recommend using regular birth control until a semen analysis can be performed 2-3 months following the procedure.
- During ovulation: There are about 6 days during your menstrual cycle when you are most likely to become pregnant. Those are the days before and during ovulation. Because this is your most fertile window, the likelihood of getting pregnant is high if you’re not using regular birth control.
Does it contain sperm?
Pre-cum fluid does not naturally contain any sperm, but sperm can leak into it. Semen left in the urethra, following ejaculation from previous intercourse, can mix with the pre-cum on its way out. Peeing before intercourse can help reduce the chance of sperm leaking into pre-cum as it flushes out lingering semen.
Studies in the past decade have shown a significant portion of participants with semen present in pre-cum.
Because of this, and the fact that most people can’t feel when pre-cum is happening, the pull-out method—or when your partner removes their penis before ejaculating or reaching climax— isn’t an effective way to prevent pregnancy.
Risk of sexually-transmitted infection (STIs)
There is a chance of contracting an STI even if your partner pulls out of your vagina before ejaculation. STIs can transfer through skin-to-skin contact, blood, semen, open sores, or bodily fluids. Pre-cum is considered to be one of the “bodily fluids.” Condoms can help you reduce the risk of giving or getting an STI when used correctly.
Do you know the most common STIs and STDs and their symptoms? Read more about safer sex to see how you can protect you and your partner.
Use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy
Since semen can be found in pre-cum, the pull-out or withdrawal method is the least effective type of birth control. Daily birth control, IUDs, and condoms are better options that can boost your chances of preventing pregnancy.
If you end up using the pull-out method without another form of protection, be sure to have over-the-counter (OTC) emergency contraception, like Julie (levonorgestrel) tablets 1.5 mg, on hand. OTC oral emergency contraception, also known as “the morning-after pill,” can help you prevent pregnancy if taken within 3 days of unprotected sex, but it is most effective the sooner you take it. Curious about Julie side effects and how ovulation can affect its efficacy? Check out our content hub.
Other emergency contraception options include Ella and the copper IUD, but both require an appointment and prescription. Julie and other OTC pills are available and legal in all 50 states and don’t require an ID, credit card, or prescription to purchase.
Although the information above may be useful, it shouldn’t replace the advice of your healthcare professional. For questions about birth control and other women’s health issues, please talk to your healthcare professional.
Emergency contraceptives like Julie work when you take them after sex. That’s because emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by delaying when you ovulate. By taking emergency contraception before sex, you may not be delaying ovulation long enough.
No. Julie is not what is commonly called “the abortion pill” or “medication abortion”. The active ingredient in the abortion pill is mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing. Julie does not and will not impact an existing pregnancy, and works by delaying ovulation before there is a pregnancy.
The FDA recently made an update in December 2022 to remove any language suggesting that Julie may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. We are currently working on removing this outdated disclaimer but you may still see it present on some of our packaging in the meantime. Please disregard these statements because they are out of date. Julie will not impact an existing pregnancy.
Julie is an emergency contraception you can take after:
- You didn’t use any form of birth control or had unprotected sex
- There was an issue with your regular birth control method (eg, the condom broke or slipped)
- You missed a dose (or more) of your regular birth control pill
Taking Julie will not impact your ability to get pregnant.
After taking Julie you can continue on with your regular birth control method if you have one (for example, continue taking birth control pills).
You will know Julie has been effective when you get your next period, which should come at the expected time, or within a week of the expected time. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional.
Julie is a backup or emergency method and should not be used as a regular birth control method. Consult with your doctor about a birth control method that makes sense for you.
Please know that taking a dose of Julie will only protect you from one instance of unprotected sex, it will not prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex over the coming days or weeks. If you have unprotected sex in the future and want to prevent pregnancy, be sure to take a new dose of Julie and talk to your doctor about the best birth control options for you.
Your menstrual bleeding patterns may change temporarily after using levonorgestrel. If you find that your period is more than a week late, take a pregnancy test to confirm whether the contraceptive has worked.
Julie can be used by all women, regardless of weight but women with BMIs above 29.9 have a pregnancy risk of 5.8% - meaning that out of every 100 women who take Julie, 6 may become pregnant. We advise that you speak with your doctor for further information on how this may affect you personally.
Take Julie tablets orally (swallow it). It is preferable to take it with water, and you can take it with or without food. Do not insert Julie vaginally.
Julie is not an abortion pill and will not harm an existing pregnancy nor will it be effective if a woman is already pregnant.
Julie is a progestin‑only emergency contraception product that helps prevent pregnancy before it starts when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
Julie is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control. Use as directed.
Julie is effective up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. The sooner it’s taken after unprotected sex, the better it works.
Julie can significantly decrease your chances of getting pregnant. When used as directed, about 7 out of every 8 women who could have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking Julie. The most important factor affecting how well Julie works is how quickly it is taken. When taken as directed within 72 hours after unprotected sex or birth control failure, Julie can significantly decrease the chance that a woman will get pregnant. In fact, the earlier Julie is taken after unprotected intercourse, the better it works.
Emergency contraception is not 100% effective, which is why it is critical that women have a regular birth control method. If you have any further questions, we encourage you to talk to your healthcare provider.
Since emergency contraception can affect the length of your menstrual cycle, your period might come about a week later or earlier than usual after taking Julie. If your period is more than one week late, consider the possibility of pregnancy.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or EC. However, some insurances require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and places where EC is sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
You do not need to see a doctor before or after taking Julie. You do not need a prescription from a doctor. We do encourage you to speak to a doctor you feel comfortable with about sex, reproductive health, and contraception.
No. We know this is a common misconception so let’s break it down. Using Julie (no matter how many times you take it) does not affect your fertility — and it will not prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future. You should feel free to use Julie whenever you think it’s necessary. Julie (and all EC) is not recommended as an ongoing form of birth control because it’s not as effective at preventing pregnancy as birth control methods like the IUD, patch, pill, ring, or shot. Also, frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable. That’s it!
Yes. You are not alone. Often times, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy.