What Is Pre-ejaculate Fluid?

By Arielle Mitton
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
May 13, 2022

Do you know the reason why the withdrawal birth control method (in which the person with a penis withdraws before ejaculation) is not as reliable as other methods?

The answer is because of pre-ejaculate fluid, also known as precum. 

Pre-ejaculate fluid is fluid that is produced during arousal and before ejaculation.

Many people are unsure whether or not this fluid contains semen or can transit sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

In this article, we’ll cover what pre-ejaculate fluid is, where it comes from, and whether or not you can get pregnant or transmit STIs through this fluid.

We’ll also cover when you may want to reach out to a healthcare provider to learn about more effective contraceptive methods.

What Is Pre-ejaculate fluid?

Pre-ejaculate fluid is a clear, mucus-like fluid that is released from the penis during sexual arousal and before ejaculation.

This fluid is released from the male urethra in amounts of up to 4 ml during sexual arousal

People with penises can secrete pre-ejaculate fluid at different times, but they are not in control of when their pre-ejaculate fluid is released.

For example, some might secrete pre-ejaculate fluid immediately after arousal, while others may secrete pre-ejaculate fluid right before ejaculation

Similarly, people with penises can produce varying amounts of pre-ejaculate fluid, while some people with penises may never produce any pre-ejaculate fluid.

For those who do produce pre-ejaculate fluid, several factors can contribute to the amount of pre-ejaculate fluid produced, including age, overall health, intensity of sexual arousal, and duration of sexual activity.

Where does pre-ejaculate fluid come from?

Experts believe that pre-ejaculate fluid is produced by the Cowper’s glands and the Glands of Littre (pea-sized glands), which open at different sites along the length of the urethra at the base of the penis. 

Neither the Cowper’s glands nor the Glands of Littre are responsible for producing semen (that’s the testes job). Instead, these glands produce an alkaline fluid that contains numerous enzymes.

What does it do?

The enzymes in pre-ejaculate fluid secretions work to neutralize traces of acidic urine in the urethra, which may help sperm to survive once emitted.

This fluid can also serve as a natural lubricant during sexual activity. 

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Can Pre-ejaculate fluid Make You Pregnant?

One of the most common concerns about pre-ejaculate fluid is whether or not its fluid contains sufficient amounts of semen to result in pregnancy. 

Nearly 60% of people aged 15-44 with vaginas in the United States are estimated to have used the withdrawal method of contraception, during which they may have unknowingly run the risk of unintended pregnancy. 

Though the glands that produce pre-ejaculate fluid do not produce semen, studies have shown that pre-ejaculate fluid can contain semen and can result in pregnancy.

One explanation is that semen may leak into pre-ejaculate fluid fluids from other reproductive organs.

Another explanation could be  that semen from previous ejaculations may remain in the urethra, mixing with the pre-ejaculate fluid during the next period of sexual arousal.

The exact amount of semen present in pre-ejaculate fluid is unknown and studies show that the risk of pregnancy associated with pre-ejaculate fluid can vary.

One study measuring the sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid found that 41% of their pre-ejaculate fluid samples contained sperm and 37% of those samples contained sperm that was motile (motile sperm are able to move through the female reproductive tract and are more likely to cause pregnancy).

Another study found motile sperm in just 16.7% of the samples collected. 

In general, the risks of pregnancy caused by pre-ejaculate fluid are low. However, it is possible. 

It’s important to know that people who rely on the withdrawal method as their only contraceptive method have a higher risk of getting pregnant than those who use condoms, birth control pills, or a combination of contraceptive methods.

Specifically, one source suggests that around 27% of those who use withdrawal as a regular form of contraception experience pregnancy.  

Can Pre-ejaculate fluid Give You an STD or STI?

Pre-ejaculate fluid can carry bacteria and viruses.

The withdrawal method will not protect against STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV. 

However, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent getting and spreading STIs, including:

  • Use a condom when having anal, oral, and vaginal sex
  • Limit your number of sex partners
  • Get tested

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When To See a Medical Provider

While the withdrawal method may not be a reliable contraceptive method, there are other options available. Speaking with a healthcare provider is a great way to learn about the choices you have. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. 

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Can precum get a girl pregnant?
Yes, precum fluid can contain semen that can result in unintended pregnancy. Studies show that between 16%-37% percent of pre-ejaculatory fluids can contain active motile semen. Though the likelihood of pregnancy when using the withdrawal method isn’t high, it is possible. For more effective contraception, consider using other methods, like condoms.
What is precum and why does it happen?
Precum is a clear, mucus-like fluid that is released from the penis during sexual arousal and before ejaculation. It acts as a natural lubricant during sex and is also believed to help sperm travel and survive the journey through the female reproductive tract.
Is precum the same as ejaculation?
No, precum (or preejaculatory fluid) is not the same as come. Precum is fluid that gets released from the penis during sexual activity and before ejaculation. Come, on the other hand, is the fluid that gets released during ejaculation. Both fluids can contain semen and result in pregnancy, but come will likely contain higher amounts of semen and is more likely to cause pregnancy. Importantly, both come and precum can transmit sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Arielle Mitton

Dr. Mitton is a board certified internal medicine physician with over 6 years of experience in urgent care and additional training in geriatric medicine. She completed her trainings at Mount Sinai Hospital and UCLA. She is on the board of the Hyperemesis Research Foundation to help women suffering from hyperemesis gravidarum.