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What Is Pre-Ejaculate?

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 21, 2022

Pre-ejaculate is also called pre-cum, and is a liquid that squeezes out of the penis when aroused. It is formed by the accessory sex glands. These glands are different from the prostate and testes that make semen. The accessory sex glands do not produce sperm. You can't feel pre-ejaculate coming out of your penis, and there's no way to control it.

What Is Precum?

It is a clear, mucus-like liquid that appears at the tip of the penis during sexual excitement. It is produced by the accessory sex glands—the Cowper's gland, the glands of Littre, and the glands of Morgagni. The amount can be a few drops to 5 milliliters. These glands open into the urethra at different places.

The amount can vary in the same person at different times, depending on the intensity of sexual excitement.

What Does Precum Look Like? It is usually a clear, sticky liquid.

When Does Precum Occur? It occurs when you're feeling sexual excitement.

Pre-Ejaculate Meaning: Pre-ejaculate shows excitement. It means you feel desire for your partner. 

Pre-Ejaculate—Functions

The Cowper's gland is the main source of the pre-ejaculate fluid. It is situated below the prostate and is also called the bulbourethral gland. It produces an alkaline, mucus-like fluid during sexual stimulation.

  • Pre-ejaculation fluid neutralizes the acidity in the urethra. Urine is often acidic and leaves an acidic residue in the urethra. Sperm don't thrive in an acidic environment. Pre-ejaculate provides a basic (alkaline) pH for the semen and urethra.
  • It contains glycoproteins, which provide lubrication during intercourse. 
  • The environment in the vaginal vault is chemically unsuitable for sperms. The pre-ejaculate fluid provides a neutralizing buffer and helps them survive and remain active.

Can Pre-Cum Cause Pregnancy?

Pre-ejaculate is released all through the sex act and it enters your partner's vagina. Any sperm in it can travel up through the cervix and find the egg in the fallopian tube.

The withdrawal method (also called coitus interruptus) refers to the withdrawal of the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. It's an ancient method, costs nothing, and has no side effects. But it is undependable. A pregnancy may happen because of sperm in the pre-cum.

The secretion from the Cowper's gland does not contain any sperm. However, the pre-ejaculate collected at the tip of the penis shows the presence of sperm.

Some studies have shown that more than 40% of men have sperm in their pre-ejaculate fluid. Some men always have sperm in their pre-ejaculate, while others never do. This always or never phenomenon probably explains why some men are successful at birth control by the withdrawal method. But the possibility of sperm in pre-ejaculate is high. The way to avoid pregnancy is to wear a condom from the first moment of genital contact.

For withdrawal to work as birth control, you must pull out when ejaculation is about to happen. It is difficult to do so every time. It is impossible to know about pre-ejaculate fluid entering your partner's vagina. Withdrawal works best with another birth control method like condoms, oral contraceptive pills, or a vaginal ring. 

There's a belief that the sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid are leftover sperm in the urethra from the last ejaculation. But even after passing urine several times after the last ejaculation, the pre-ejaculate contains sperm. Passing urine to wash out the urethra does not work to keep sperm out of pre-ejaculate.

What Are the Alternatives to the Withdrawal Method?

If you don't want a pregnancy, the withdrawal method should not be your only form of birth control. You should combine it with another method. If you've completed your family or otherwise decided not to have children, male or female sterilization are dependable, permanent methods. The temporary methods are:

Diaphragm or cap. This covers the cervix of the uterus and doesn't allow sperm to enter the uterus.

Oral contraceptive pills. Also called "the pill." These pills contain both types of sex hormones, estrogens and progestins. The pill works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg at all. Oral contraceptive pills are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Contraceptive implant. A doctor places a small plastic rod under a woman's skin. It releases the hormone progestin for three years and prevents pregnancy. 

Contraceptive injection. A slow-release injection of progestin is given to women. It prevents pregnancy for three months.

Contraceptive patch. A woman can stick it to her skin, and it releases progestin for a week. It has to be replaced every week for three weeks. It helps with heavy periods and painful periods and is effective even if you have nausea and vomiting.

Condoms. They prevent semen from entering the vagina. Apart from pregnancy, they also prevent the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases

Female condoms. Worn inside the vagina, they prevent sperm from entering the uterus.

Intrauterine device (IUD). These are small devices placed into the uterus. They release copper or hormones and prevent pregnancy. An IUD works for several years.

Vaginal ring. These are placed inside the vagina. They release hormones slowly and prevent pregnancy.

Can Pre-Cum Cause HIV Infection?

Yes, it can. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is present in the pre-ejaculate fluid. The concentration of the virus is less than in semen, but the infection can happen.

What if You Have Excessive Pre-Ejaculate Fluid?

The amount of this fluid is variable. Some men have large volumes. This can be socially embarrassing, as just being out on a date or kissing results in soaking of the pants. 

Excessive pre-ejaculate is not a medical problem or a threat to health. But if you want to reduce it, you should talk to your physician. Medicines like finasteride can relieve such symptoms.

Sperm leaks into the pre-ejaculate fluid in some men. The number of sperm is less than in semen but can probably cause pregnancy. If you're using the withdrawal method to avoid pregnancy, you should know that it alone is not enough protection. Even if you possess an iron will and withdraw before ejaculation each time, your pre-cum may cause a pregnancy. It's best to combine the withdrawal method with another method of birth control.

Show Sources

SOURCES:
Columbia University. Go Ask Alice: "Is this pre-cum, or something else? Is this normal?"
Human Fertility: "Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid."
Journal of Andrology: "Copious Pre-Ejaculation: Small Glands—Major Headaches."
Mayo Clinic: "Birth Control — Can you get pregnant from pre-ejaculation fluid?"
National Health Service: "Your contraception guide."
Planned Parenthood: "Withdrawal (Pull Out Method)."

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