Back to the Questions

Can pre-cum get you pregnant?

by Dr. Margo Harrison
Julie Medical Advisor
Before SexAfter Sex

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. Misinformation 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.