Can You Get Pregnant From Pre-Cum? Unfortunately, The Answer Isn't That Straightforward
One of the most tried and true methods for putting a bun in the oven is always going to be the plain and simple, penis-in-vagina sex — which also continues to mean that you need to be careful if you engage in said sex if you'd rather not be pregnant at the moment. But there tends to be a lot of misinformation out there about engaging in safe sex, and how and when pregnancy can happen exactly. A common and often debated question in regards to potential pregnancy has always been, for example, can you get pregnant from pre-cum?
To be clear on what exactly we're talking about here, pre-cum, or pre-ejaculate, is a fluid produced by the bulbourethral glands (or Cowper's glands) that can come out of the penis during arousal, intercourse, and masturbation. Pre-cum is viscous and colorless, and it has a similar composition to the semen that comes out of a guy's penis when he orgasms. But it is, in fact, a totally different substance, as semen, or seminal fluid, is secreted by the gonads and other sexual organs, and its main job is to fertilize female eggs and, you know, make the babies.
Interestingly, pre-cum actually has a job to do as well, but it's not fertilization per se. It acts as a sexual lubricant, and most of all, neutralizes acidity around the urethra and lowers the pH in the vagina, since acidity is "hostile" toward sperm and can kill it or decrease the potency of a batch.
There's some debate, though, as to the amount of viable sperm that pre-cum may or may not contain.
Some studies show that there's viable sperm in pre-ejaculate, and therefore condoms or other forms of birth control should definitely be used during all genital contact in order to best avoid pregnancy. Meanwhile, other studies show that there's little to no viable sperm in pre-ejaculate, which would mean you don't have to sweat it.
But like, what's the actual answer here?
In terms of pre-cum getting you pregnant, according to Planned Parenthood, it's unlikely, but still technically possible.
The American Pregnancy Association echoes that sentiment, saying that a pre-cum pregnancy is super rare.
OK, since there's clearly a lot of discrepancy surrounding this, Elite Daily spoke with a couple of experts on the topic to clarify what the likelihood actually is of getting knocked up by a little bit of seemingly harmless pre-cum.
Dr. Ishmael Olusegun of Besafemeds tells Elite Daily that there can be sperm that travels within the pre-ejaculate, but it's unlikely that this sperm would survive and be viable inside your body. This doesn't mean that it can't ever happen, though it is very, very unlikely. He explains,
The best way to prevent pregnancy is to practice safe sex. The pull-out method has been proven to not prevent pregnancy, and does not protect from STDs.
[Pulling out] should not be used as primary means of birth control. Using barrier methods, such as condoms, are the only way to prevent the transmission of STDs.
Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., an OB/GYN and clinical instructor at Rosalind Franklin University's Chicago Medical School, shed some light on the debate as well. He tells Elite Daily,
By releasing Cowper's fluid [aka pre-cum], which is basic rather than acidic before ejaculation, the vagina is made less acidic and more hospitable to sperm.
A recent study found, however, that 40 percent of men tested had sperm cells in their pre-ejaculate. And, of those 40 percent of men with sperm cells in the pre-ejaculate, 37 percent of them had motile sperm that were active and able to swim. Motile, swimming sperm can swim toward and fertilize an egg.
So, while Cowper's fluid has fewer sperm cells than ejaculate does, many men still do have active sperm in their pre-cum.
Sex educator Kenna Cook offers Elite Daily similar insight, with an added anecdote: While yes, getting pregnant from pre-cum might be unlikely, she says, it's definitely possible.
In fact, that's actually how Cook herself got pregnant with her second child.
She tells Elite Daily,
I can tell you from personal experience that I had unprotected sex with my partner, and even though we used the "pull-out method," there was enough viable sperm in his pre-cum to get me pregnant.
Plus, Cook says she's also pretty sure she was able to pregnant this way because of where she was in her ovulation cycle at the time.
So, considering that whole sperm viability thing, along with the fact that places like Planned Parenthood and the CDC do not condone the use of the pull-out method as a legitimate form of contraception, it's pretty clear that pre-cum, though not guaranteed to get you pregnant, is probably nothing to f*ck with or take any chances with.
But what if you do get some pre-cum all up in you down there? What's the recommended protocol exactly?
As you may have guessed, there's no 100 percent consistent answer across the board. If pre-cum does end up inside of you, while it does seem that the overall likelihood of pregnancy is small, emergency contraception (like Plan B) is still a great way to put your mind at ease if you're freaking out about even the mere possibility of having a bun in the oven.
In fact, Dr. Abdur-Rahman tells Elite Daily that he "absolutely recommends" that anyone who has been exposed to pre-cum should take Plan B within the initial 48 to 72 hours after the fact if they want to be “extra cautious."
The best bet with your approach to sex and birth control methods, IMHO? Research and figure out what works best for you and your comfort levels! And hey, talking to your doctor probably wouldn't hurt, either.