Ask Ella: What is precum?
If you’ve ever had sex with someone with a penis, you may know this as the warm up act before the main event, but what is precum? We spoke to Deborah Evans**, a pharmacist with over 20 years experience, to find out.
What is precum?
Precum, or pre-ejaculation, is produced when someone with a penis is aroused, but before they actually reach climax. This could be during foreplay, sex or even if they’re just enjoying a little ‘alone time’.
“Precum is a clear fluid released when a man becomes sexually aroused before he ejaculates,”says Deborah, “It neutralises any acidity left by urine in the urethra to protect sperm that flows through it, and also acts as a lubricant for the sperm and sexual intercourse.”
So what’s the difference between precum and actual ejaculate? Well, ejaculate is released from the testicles whereas precum is produced by two small glands at the base of the penis called the Cowper’s glands.
When these glands produce the fluid it then travels through the urethra and et voila, you’ve got precum!
What is precum for?
Precum is basically there to prepare the urethra for ejaculation. The fluid is slightly alkaline so it neutralises any acidity caused by urine and this protects the sperm in ejaculate.
It also acts as a natural lubricant, smoothing the way for any sperm and making it easier for them to leave the person’s body.
Can you get STIs from precum?
Absolutely. The Cowper’s glands that produce precum can be affected by viral and bacterial STIs.
“Sexually-transmitted infections, like HIV and chlamydia, can be transmitted through precum,” says Deborah, “For instance, if a person gives oral sex to a man, he or she could become infected through contact with pre-ejaculatory fluid. This is another important reason to practice safe sex.”
You should always use a condom with a new sexual partner and remember: getting regular STI tests is part of being responsible and sexually mature.
Can you get pregnant from precum?
This is one of the most asked questions about precum. The short answer is: yes.
“Precum does not contain any sperm,” says Deborah, “however an earlier ejaculation (either from sex or masturbation) may leave some sperm in the urethra. This could be transferred in the precum and cause pregnancy, although it is not common.”
“If a man urinates, it can flush out any leftover sperm. If done before sex, should mean that there is no sperm around. Even with the best form of protection, it is always possible that sexual intercourse can result in an unintended pregnancy, even if ejaculation does not obviously occur,” she continues, “Using condoms can protect you from pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.”
Pre-cum is one (of many) reasons why the ‘pull-out method’ – where you have penetrative sex without protection, then pulling out before ejaculating – is NOT a method of contraception.
If your regular method of contraception lets you down, ellaOne is the most effective morning after pill. It is most effective* the sooner you take it, but ellaOne can work for up to five days after unprotected sex.
*For verification visit ellaone.co.uk/verify/.
Did you know that women can produce the female equivalent of precum? Yeah, that’s right women have Bartholin’s glands located in the entrance to the vagina.
These glands produce extra fluid before and during sex to help with lubrication… but that’s about the only similarity.
If you have any more questions about sexual health and contraception use the hashtag #AskElla and we’ll answer them. Looking for more A’s to your Q’s? Check out our other #AskElla content here.
Have you ever taken the morning after pill and wished you knew more about it? Visit My Morning After Stories to share your experience with us and join a community of women breaking this taboo.
*Deborah Evans does not endorse any medicinal products or brands.