Yes, You Can Get Pregnant From Precum — Here’s Why

Getty | Witthaya PrasongsinGetty | Witthaya Prasongsin

There are a lot of myths that swirl around out there when it comes to sexual health, making it tough to know what’s actually real. If your birth control game isn’t the strongest, you may be left wondering things like, “Can you get pregnant from precum?”

The short answer is yes, you can get pregnant from precum. But the reason — and how likely this actually is to happen — is slightly complicated.

In case you’re not familiar with it, precum is another word for pre-ejaculate. The lubricating fluid is made up of several secretions and exits the penis at some point during arousal, says David Kaufman, MD, the director of Central Park Urology, a division of Maiden Lane Medical.

Getting pregnant is a complicated process that requires several factors to be in order, including the right timing. So, while you can technically get pregnant from precum, several things have to fall into place to make pregnancy from pre-ejaculate a reality.

Still, if you want to hedge your bets, doctors say it’s best not to gamble when it comes to precum. Here’s what you need to know about precum, plus your odds of pregnancy if you’re exposed to it.

Does Precum Have Sperm?

Yes, sperm can be in precum. “Pre-ejaculate is composed of lubricating secretions from the accessory sexual glands, the Cowper’s glands and Littré’s glands, which drain into the urethra upon arousal,” Dr. Kaufman explains.

The volume of precum ranges in people from being almost undetectable to up to five milliliters, he says. The whole point of precum is to neutralize the normally acidic pH of the urethra that’s caused by urine, creating a more hospitable environment for the sperm, Dr. Kaufman tells PS.

Can You Get Pregnant From Precum?

Yes, you can get pregnant from precum. “Sperm cells are occasionally found in the pre-ejaculate, so care must be taken,” Dr. Kaufman says.

Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, agrees. “Pre-ejaculate may well have sperm in it,” she says. And whenever sperm is released, there is a chance of pregnancy. “This is why the withdrawal method is a terrible method of contraception,” Dr. Minkin tells PS.

How Likely Is It to Get Pregnant From Precum Right After Your Period?

Again, pregnancy is a complicated process that requires the release of an egg (via ovulation), which then meets with sperm. While ovulation typically happens halfway through the menstrual cycle — which is usually 14 days before the start of the next period — that’s not always the case, Dr. Minkin points out. As a result, there is a chance of getting pregnant from precum right after your period.

What Are the Chances of Getting Pregnant From Precum While Ovulating?

There are so many factors involved in getting pregnant that this is hard to determine, Dr. Minkin says. However, pregnancy is usually most likely to happen during ovulation, per Mayo Clinic. “It is difficult to calculate the exact chance of getting pregnant at ovulation — but it is not zero,” Dr. Minkin says.

Can You Get Pregnant Without Sperm Being Released?

Technically, you can’t get pregnant without sperm being released. But it’s difficult to know if someone is actually releasing sperm. “The only time you should have sex with a male and be assured you will not get pregnant is if he has been shown on several occasions to have a sperm count of zero,” Dr. Minkin says. “And remember, the typical ejaculate contains at least 20 million sperm per milliliter — and all you need is one sperm to conceive.”

Can You Get Pregnant If Only the Tip Goes In?

Yes, Dr. Minkin says you can get pregnant if just the tip goes in. While this is a common way to try to lower the risk of pregnancy, she points out that whenever a penis — and sperm — is in the vaginal canal, there is a risk of getting pregnant.

Should I Take Plan B For Precum?

If you had unprotected penile-vaginal sex, Dr. Minkin stresses that there is a risk of getting pregnant. With that, she recommends taking Plan B or another brand of emergency contraception if you don’t want to become pregnant.

“We have a lot of excellent methods of contraception available,” she says. “There are just-being-introduced OTC progesterone-only pills, but condoms and contraceptive foams and gels are very effective also.”

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