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Around half of all pregnancies are unplanned and many women have questions about potential unplanned pregnancy.

One popular question is whether and what are your chances of getting pregnant from precum, in other words if you had unprotected sex with the male partner not ejaculating inside the woman's body. 

What exactly is precum?

Precum is a word that I suspect originates from the porn industry. Other words for the same thing include pre-ejaculate, preseminal fluid and Cowper's fluid. Pre-ejaculate is a colorless fluid that comes from the penis when a man is sexually aroused. Like the fluid that women produce in the same state, pre-ejaculate is meant to serve as a lubricant to facilitate easier sexual intercourse.

Precum is chemically different to semen and is not produced by every man.

Those men who do produce precum do so in varying amounts, and at various stages of sex some men start producing pre-ejaculate fluid as soon as they become aroused, while some only do so right before they ejaculate. Besides lubricating, pre-ejaculate may actually increase a man's chance of getting his partner pregnant. The fluid expels remaining urine (an acidic substance) from the penis and may also play a role in neutralizing the acidic environment of the vagina. This offers sperm a better survival chance, and thus increases the odds that sperm will reach a waiting egg.

Can you get pregnant from pre-ejaculate?

Precum is also the reason you hear so much advice against using the withdrawal or pull-out method to prevent pregnancy. It is said that precum can contain a small amount of sperm and one is all it takes, in the end!

Precum does not include any sperm by design, but some could be carried into the vagina through the pre-ejaculatory fluid if they were left behind in the penis during the last ejaculation. Studies have shown that precum hardly ever contains live sperm, but these were small studies that should not be relied upon to prevent you from getting pregnant.

Still, it is fair to say that it is highly unlikely that you will get pregnant from precum. For this to happen, your partner would have to have ejaculated fairly recently, and not have urinated afterward. You would also have to be within your fertile window, which lasts a grand maximum of six days per cycle. More concerning is the possibility of catching HIV from precum. Research shows the HIV virus to be present in pre-ejaculatory fluid, and this is definitely something to be aware of.

A safe sex lecture

If you are worried about a pregnancy resulting from precum, you probably also have reason to be worried about sexually transmitted infections. HIV, which I already mentioned, is not the only thing you really don't want to catch. You may, of course, be in a committed relationship in which both partners were already tested. In that case, pregnancy is the only thing you need to worry about. If you do not fall into this category and are not 100 percent sure your partner does not have any sexually transmitted infections, you have a lot more reason to be scared of STIs than of pregnancy after a short incident of unprotected sex without ejaculation. Get tested.

Most sexually infected infections are easily treatable, especially in the early stages. You will be glad that you got tested if you do have one of those. In the future, condoms are the only form of birth control that protects you from STIs and from pregnancy. You know this, and you also know that you are much safer if you actually use them. Carrying condoms with you at all times is one great way to avoid slip ups. Your wallet is probably the best place for them. (Another thing to keep in mind is that there have recently been lots of incidents where counterfeit condoms from Asia make their way into corner shops/convenience stores. Going out to but condoms at these places can also be unsafe. Buy yours in advance, in a reputable store.) Now, on the off chance that you are actually trying to get pregnant, precum is not a good way to conceive. Men who have problems ejaculating should consult their doctor.

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