April 5, 2012

Q&A Pregnancy Without Penetration?

Rubbing genitals together does not result in pregnancy – at least as long as no semen gets inside the vagina or too close to the vaginal entrance.

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dolls in bed

dolls in bed

Question: Could I have gotten my partner pregnant by rubbing our genitals without clothes on? I did not come near her vagina at all. I don’t really know if pre-cum touched her vulva, but I never penetrated. But, could pre-cum get a girl pregnant just on the outside the vagina (vulva)? Thanks!

First, you get bonus points for using the word vulva correctly.

Vulva” refers to the outside parts of a woman’s genitals whereas the word “vagina” refers to the inside birth canal where a penis, fingers, or a tampon may be inserted.

Second, rubbing genitals together does not result in pregnancy – at least as long as no semen gets inside the vagina or too close to the vaginal entrance. Pre-ejaculate (also called “pre-cum”) is not the same as semen.

While several scientific studies have found no sperm at all in pre-ejaculatory fluids (since the come from the Cowper’s glands and glands of Littre, which neither make nor store sperm), at least one study has found that some men seem to have sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluids. This led the research team to speculate that “some men repeatedly leak sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid while others do not.” And while the researchers noted that the number of sperm in the pre-ejaculatory samples “was very low”, they also noted that it was unclear how much or how little of a risk of pregnancy the sperm might pose, “except that the chances would not be zero.” [1]

Of course, if you don’t want to become pregnant yet, you’d be wise to look into birth control such as having a condom or two on hand, or talking with your partner about using birth control options such as the IUD, birth control implant, hormonal birth control pills (“the pill”), the birth control shot, or others. It may save you both the anxiety of worrying as much about pregnancy risk in the future.


[1] Killick, S.R., Leary, C., Trussell, J., and Guthrie, K.A. (2011). Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid. Human Fertility, 14(1), 48-52.

Next Question:Can Frequent Sex Harm Our Emotional Relationship?

My girlfriend and I have sex generally between two and three times a day. Can this be harmful to our relationship and emotional attachment to each other? If so, are there ways to increase that such as bonding after sex, cuddling, etc.?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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Reviewed and updated on April 30, 2017 to include additional reference to research and to update contraceptive options.