Continuing with our exploration into pregnancy probability statistics, let’s start with situations involving precum (also known as pre-ejaculate). “Can you get pregnant from precum?” and “does precum contain sperm?” are pretty common questions in the chances of pregnancy realm. This because the pull-out method is both one of the oldest and most common forms of contraception. This isn’t because it’s exactly reliable (we’ll get to just how reliable it is a in a second), but because it’s free and it’s supposedly easy.
First off, what is precum, and what’s it for?
Pre-ejaculate is a clear liquid that proceeds ejaculation in many cases. The amount of precum a man releases varies greatly, and he has absolutely no control over that release. It’s thought that the purpose of precum is to reduce the acidity of both a man’s urethra and a woman’s vagina as sperm do poorly in high-acid environments. It may also act to aid in lubrication.
Does precum contain sperm?
Surprisingly, there are very few studies on this subject. The few that do exist (I’m talking less than five) also don’t agree. A few studies (link for one, two, and three) found precum contains no sperm at all, but in the most recent study done in 2011, 37 percent of men produced samples that contained motile (capable of causing pregnancy) sperm. The number of sperm in these samples did vary, but for the most part was well below the quantity found in actual ejaculate. These men had urinated prior to sample collection.
As the jury is still out, so to speak, most reputable sources will state that, yes, precum can contain sperm. That sperm may not be eliminated by urination.
What are the chances of pregnancy with precum?
The only data on this topic assumes vaginal sex (meaning it may not apply to things such as “grinding” or other situations where there was no penetration) in couples under 35. Unfortunately, there is also no data as far as by-the-act statistics, i.e. the chances of becoming pregnant from a single act involving only precum. So, what do we know?
A review in 2011 done by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University found with perfectly timed “pulling out” or the removal of the penis prior to true ejaculation 4 of every 100 couples (4 percent) will become pregnant within a year. As the pull-out method also leaves a high chance of error (not pulling out fast enough), the overall rate of pregnancy in couples who only use the pull-out method is 22 out of 100, or 22 percent, within a year.
A study done in 2002, also by the Office of Population Research, along with the Guttmacher Institute, broke that down into slightly shorter time frames with 7.8 percent becoming pregnant within 3 months, 11.3 percent by 6 months, 18.4 percent by 12 months (less than the estimate in 2011). This study didn’t separate “perfect use” from just average practice where lots of folks make mistakes.
If you average that all out to a monthly basis, you get around a 1 to 2 percent precum pregnancy chance as a likely statistic for a one-time incident during any given month.
Chances of pregnancy from precum vary from about 4 to 22 percent assuming frequent intercourse over the course of a year. A single act likely holds a chance well below this.
This ignores intercourse timing, a topic we covered in part one of this series on pregnancy probability statistics if you missed it.