Q&A: Can You Get Pregnant From Pre-Cum?

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QUESTION: How likely is it that pre-cum will cause pregnancy? About a month ago, my boyfriend and I were fooling around and things went a little too far. His penis was inside for a short amount of time, probably less than five minutes, and he didn't cum. I'm not sure if I am late or not. What is the probability that we're pregnant?

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant from pre-ejaculate sperm, through your specific situation makes it seem unlikely that you would have gotten pregnant from the encounter with your boyfriend. Here’s why:

Pre-Ejaculate: What Is It? What Is It For?

Pre-ejaculate (sometimes called “pre-cum”) is fluid released by the Cowper’s glands, which are two small glands along the male reproductive/urinary tract. This fluid helps to neutralize the otherwise acidic environment of the urethra and, as such, offers protection to sperm that might soon travel that route via ejaculation. The fluid is clear and, in some but not all men, is visible at the tip of the penis during sexual arousal.

Sexuality and health educators often warn individuals that pre-ejaculate might have sperm in it and thus could cause a pregnancy.

Theoretically this is true, as there might be sperm that are still “left over” in the urethra from a previous ejaculation earlier that day or earlier in that same sexual session (either because of masturbation or sexual activity with a partner). Thus if sperm are “left over” in the urethra and then a man’s Cowper’s glands release pre-ejaculatory fluid, and it comes forth to the tip of the penis during arousal, then there is a chance that some sperm could be carried in this fluid and get into his partner’s body, if they are having intercourse without a condom.

Pre-Ejaculate Rarely Contains Sperm

That said, research that has examined the content of pre-ejaculatory fluid has rarely found sperm present in it. This does not mean that sperm is never present in pre-cum; it just means that it does not appear to typically be present.

In your case, since your boyfriend did not ejaculate in the days before your encounter, it is unlikely there were any sperm “left over” in his urethra. We can assume that though he did not ejaculate in the days before your sexual encounter, he probably did urinate, thus likely clearing his urethra of any sperm. However, if you would like more certainty, consider getting a pregnancy test through your campus health center or a local family planning clinic.

But It Can Contain Infectious Agents

It is important to note that infectious agents (including HIV) can be present in pre-ejaculate. Therefore it is still a good idea to use a condom in order to reduce the risk of infections that are transmitted through fluids, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV.

Even when it turns out that the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy is low, pregnancy scares often make couples consider their choices with more seriousness. This might be a good time to talk about how to keep things from going “too far” from where you feel comfortable.

What might make future romantic encounters comfortable? Should you both start carrying condoms? Do you want to engage in certain behaviors and avoid others? What feels right to you given your age, experience, values and feelings for each other? Thinking and talking through these points can help you figure out more about how you want to lead your relationship. Good luck.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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  • zeeanaoi

    What is the chance that i might be pregnant if my boyfriend and i had sex the night before, cummed and then the next day we had sex again, but he peed in the time between sex? We didn't use condoms, and he pulled it out before cuming?

  • Brody

    thank you so much, i was gettin sick of everybody giving me crap about this subject just because they heard it from somewhere and had no reall proof. ive also read in a mens health magazine that compared to a condom, the pullout method was only a 1% greater chance of getting your partner pregnant if you pulled out correctly.

  • Angelbear1978

    what are the chances that you can get pregnant if you just had anal sex and he didn't pull out?

  • nichole

    so it seems like the past few weeks my breasts have been really sore. the past week it has seemed to get a little worse. just how likely is it that i could get pregnant? my period should be here in 3 days but i have felt like im about to start for about a week or so. any suggestions? please help!!