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What percent can Precum get you pregnant?

Pull Out Method

The pull-out method involves your partner pulling their penis from your vagina before they ejaculate. About one in five people who rely on the pull-out method become pregnant. It also doesn’t help protect against STIs like condoms do.

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What is the pull-out method (withdrawal)?

With the pull-out method, your partner pulls their penis out of your vagina and away from your genitals (vulva) before ejaculating. During ejaculation, sperm gets released from the penis in a fluid called semen. The pull-out method is also called coitus interruptus or the withdrawal method.

Pulling out is less effective than other types of contraception (IUDs, birth control pills, condoms, etc.). It doesn’t offer protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as condoms do.

Still, the pull-out method is better than no birth control if you want to have sex, but you want to reduce your chance of pregnancy.

How does the pull-out method work?

Your partner’s sperm has to travel from your vagina (where your partner ejaculates semen) to your fallopian tubes for you to become pregnant. Fertilization happens in the fallopian tubes.

With the pull-out method, your partner’s penis is in your vagina until before ejaculation. Your partner withdrawals their penis so that the semen remains outside your body. The goal is to prevent sperm from reaching your vaginal canal so sperm can’t make the journey to your fallopian tubes.

How effective is the pull-out method?

The pull-out method is about 80% effective. About one in five people who rely on the pull-out method for birth control become pregnant.

What is the likelihood of pregnancy if my partner pulls out?

In the best-case scenario, where your partner pulls out on time, the pull-out method still doesn’t prevent pregnancy 100% of the time.

The reality is that many things have to go perfectly for best-case scenarios. Even if you’ve used the pull-out method for years and have avoided pregnancy so far, there’s no guarantee that the next time won’t lead to pregnancy. All it takes is one slight miscalculation on your partner’s part.

How does the pull-out method fail?

There’s a lot of room for error with the pull-out method.

Getting the timing wrong

It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when ejaculation will happen. Usually — but not always — ejaculation happens right before orgasm, at the height of sexual pleasure. It can be challenging to switch on the logical part of the brain that says, now’s the time to pull out, when the pleasure is most intense.

If your partner isn’t sexually experienced, they may not be familiar enough with their bodies to know when they’ll likely ejaculate. Even with experienced partners who can usually predict when they’ll ejaculate, distractions like stress or the influence of alcohol can lead to mistakes.

Getting the timing just right is always a gamble with the pull-out method.

Pre-ejaculate fluid containing sperm

Sperm can still enter your body even if your partner pulls out on time. Before ejaculation, your partner releases a pre-ejaculate fluid that may contain sperm. This fluid doesn’t have as much sperm as semen, but it may still contain sperm. Pre-ejaculate that contains sperm can get you pregnant if the fluid enters your body.

Semen on or near your vulva

Semen on your upper thighs and genitals can potentially cause pregnancy, too. Your partner may pull out in time to keep sperm from entering your vagina. In the process, the fluid can land on your genitals (vulva) or upper thighs. Sperm are excellent swimmers. If there’s a fluid passageway leading from your genitals or thighs to your vagina, sperm can make the journey.

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What are the disadvantages of the pull-out method?

The pull-out method isn’t a reliable form of birth control. In addition to the biological reasons that cause pulling out to go wrong, the pull-out method:

  • Places the responsibility of birth control onto the partner with zero pregnancy risk. With the pull-out method, you have no control over your likelihood of becoming pregnant. If your partner gets the timing wrong or decides not to pull because the sex feels too good, you’re the one who could become pregnant.
  • May make sex more stressful. Even if your partner does their best to pull out in time, things can always go wrong. The pressure to pull out can make sex a more stressful, high-risk situation than if you were using more reliable birth control methods.
  • Doesn’t remove the need for reliable contraception. If you suspect that semen entered your vagina, you’ll need to locate emergency contraception. Using an effective form of birth control upfront may be less stressful than finding emergency contraception because something went wrong.
  • Doesn’t provide STI protection. Unlike condoms, the pull-out method offers zero protection against STIs transmitted through body fluids, like trichomoniasis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Why do people use the pull-out method?

Despite the risks involved, many couples still rely on the pull-out method for various reasons:

  • It eliminates the need to research and choose more effective contraceptives.
  • Couples may be unaware of more effective birth control options (like LARCs or birth control pills).
  • Couples may object to birth control that involves devices, pills, injections or patches.
  • The pull-out method preserves the spontaneity of sex. You don’t have to locate protection right when things are starting to heat up.
  • There’s no risk of non-pregnancy-related side effects, as with some birth control options.
  • You can have sex even if you forget birth control.

Some people use the pull-out method with other forms of birth control as an added safeguard to prevent pregnancy.

How should you use the pull-out method?

If you decide to use the pull-out method, try the following to improve its effectiveness.

  • Use an additional form of birth control. Using the pull-out method with another form of birth control is the best way to reduce your chance of pregnancy. Long-acting reversible contraception (IUDs and implants) is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Birth control pills are about 96% effective. When factoring in user error, condoms prevent pregnancy about 85% of the time. Using spermicides and contraceptive gels in addition to the pull-out method also decreases your likelihood of becoming pregnant.
  • Don’t attempt the pull-out method around ovulation. You’re most likely to become pregnant in the days leading up to and during ovulation (when your body releases an egg). For reference, most people ovulate about halfway through their menstrual cycle (2 weeks before your period). Use an ovulation calendar to track your most fertile days. Definitely don’t attempt the pull-out method around this time.
  • Have your partner pee before sex. Peeing before sex can help your partner get rid of pre-ejaculate fluid that may contain sperm. It doesn’t guarantee that sperm won’t enter your body through pre-ejaculate fluid, but it reduces the risk.
  • Keep emergency contraception on hand. Plan for worst-case scenarios if you’re using the pull-out method. Emergency contraception, like the morning-after pill, can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of intercourse. It’s a good idea to have some available if you’re relying on the pull-out method.
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A note from Cleveland Clinic

The pull out method is better than no birth control at all if you’re trying to prevent pregnancy. Still, it’s important to know the risks. There’s a one in five chance you’ll become pregnant if you’re not pairing the pull-out method with a more effective form of contraception. You’ll still need to protect yourself against STIs. Weigh the pros and cons of using the pull out method against other birth control methods with a healthcare provider.

Can you get pregnant from pre‑cum?


Pre‑cum, or pre‑ejaculate, can contain sperm. What are the chances of getting pregnant from pre‑cum?

Mar 09, 2023

Jennifer Walter

Jennifer Walter

Portrait of Lauren A Koenig

Lauren A Koenig, PhD

We all know the basics of how pregnancy begins: The sperm meets the egg, the egg becomes fertilized, then the embryo implants in the uterus . So naturally, if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, it makes sense to eliminate the chances of the sperm and egg meeting.

During sex, your risk of pregnancy is much higher if you don’t use protection, such as condoms or long-term birth control . Strategies like the pull-out method aren’t considered effective at preventing pregnancy — and that can be due to the presence of sperm in pre-cum, or the fluid excreted by the penis before ejaculation. Though it’s typically an unassuming part of sex, pre-cum does carry more of a pregnancy risk than you might realize. Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly is pre-cum?

Pre-cum is the slang term for pre-ejaculatory fluid, which is produced by people with penises during arousal, foreplay, and sex. When the penis is erect, the body creates pre-cum as a natural lubricant. 1

Just like other bodily fluids such as snot or tears, you can’t really control how much or how little pre-cum your body creates. It’s a natural and normal part of arousal and sex, and a precursor to ejaculation: It’s what the body produces first in order to release semen later. 2

The trouble is, during sex, you might not realize when pre-cum turns into semen, since they both exit through the tip of the penis. 3 But there’s a big difference between the two: Semen is loaded with sperm.

By itself, pre-cum contains enzymes and mucus secreted by a few different glands in the reproductive system. It doesn’t necessarily contain sperm — but it isn’t uncommon for sperm to leak into pre-cum, either. 1

Though the amount of sperm in pre-cum will be a lot lower than the amount found in semen, the presence of any sperm can increase you or your partner’s chances of pregnancy.

How much sperm is in pre-cum?

The amount of sperm in pre-cum varies from person to person. Studies show that some people regularly release sperm before ejaculation, while others don’t release any at all. 1

For a study published in 2003, researchers studied pre-cum samples from 12 people. They didn’t find any sperm present in the samples. 4 But that finding hasn’t stayed consistent in more recent studies with a greater number of participants.

In a 2016 report, samples were collected from 42 people, and 16 percent had motile sperm present in their pre-cum. Motile sperms are the ones with good swimming capabilities; in other words, they are best suited to find and fertilize eggs. 5

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Similarly, another study published in 2011 looked at the pre-cum samples of 27 participants, and found that a whopping 40 percent of them had at least some amount of sperm present. 1 Even those with oligospermia, or low motile sperm counts, could still release sperm into their pre-cum.

So what’s going on here? The 2011 report looked at multiple pre-cum samples from the participants, and found that the same participants consistently had sperm present in their pre-cum. The rest never had sperm in any of their samples. 1

That led the researchers to conclude that people who leak sperm into pre-cum do it all the time, while others never do. The presence or absence of sperm in pre-cum seems to be up to individual anatomy, though it isn’t clear yet exactly what causes those differences.

Because of this, some people may be able to avoid pregnancy more effectively with the pull-out method than others. But unless you or your partner’s pre-cum has been tested in a lab, it’s better to play it safe if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy.

How common is it to get pregnant from pre-cum?

Since pre-cum can contain sperm, albeit low amounts, there is a possibility that it could make you or your partner pregnant. Unfortunately, there aren’t concrete numbers on the chances of someone getting pregnant from pre-cum alone. And that risk varies from person to person, due to biological differences and what methods you use to avoid pregnancy during sex.

Efficacy stats from the pull-out method can give us an idea of how likely it is to get pregnant from pre-cum. If it’s executed perfectly – meaning you or your partner withdraw before any ejaculation, every time – there’s a 96 percent chance of averting pregnancy. 6

Nearly one in five people will get pregnant when using the withdrawal method alone.

But people often make mistakes. More realistic estimates put the efficacy of the withdrawal method at just 82 percent. That means nearly one in five people will get pregnant when using the withdrawal method alone. 6

These rates are lower than other forms of birth control . Condoms have a slightly higher efficacy rate than the pull-out method when used properly, and long-term forms of birth control such as the IUD and implant are around 99 percent effective. 7

Combining methods can also produce more robust protection. For example, the pill is around 91 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, so also using condoms during sex can provide even greater protection. 7

In general, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution if you’re trying to not get pregnant. Mistakes can be life-altering, and preparing ahead of time can give you greater control over the outcome of intercourse. There are many forms of effective birth control that can give you more peace of mind when having sex — it might just take some time to find the best one for you.


  1. Killick, Stephen R., et al. “Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid.” Human Fertility 14.1 (2011): 48-52.
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. “Semen.” (2023 Jan 04): Accessed 2023 Feb 17.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica. “Ejaculation.” (2022 Aug 18): Accessed 2023 Feb 17.
  4. Zukerman, Zvi, David B. Weiss, and Raoul Orvieto. “Does preejaculatory penile secretion originating from Cowper’s gland contain sperm?” Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 20 (2003): 157-159.
  5. Kovavisarach, Ekachai, Suppasak Lorthanawanich, and Pairat Muangsamran. “Presence of sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid of healthy males.” J Med Assoc Thai 99.Suppl 2 (2016): S38-S41.
  6. Jones, Rachel K., et al. “Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal.” Contraception 79.6 (2009): 407-410.
  7. U.S. FDA. “Birth control.” (2022 Dec 23): Accessed 2023 Feb 17.
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What Is the Likelihood of Getting Pregnant From Precum?

Christina is a New York City-based writer and commerce editor. She has worked at various publications including InStyle, Shape, Verywell Health, and Health. She also has a RYT-200 certification.

Updated on May 27, 2022
Medically reviewed by

Anju Goel, MD, MPH, is a public health consultant and physician with more than 10 years of experience in the California public health system.

Junior high sexual education class made us believe that if someone so much as sneezed on you, you could get pregnant. And if precum got in the vicinity of your vagina? Well, you might as well start planning your baby shower.

As adults, we became curious: What are the odds of pregnancy from precum? To find out, Health spoke to two physicians who specialize in sexual health.

What Is Precum?

A study published in the International Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Research explained precum, or pre-ejaculate fluid, is the substance that comes out of a person’s penis when they have become sexually aroused before an orgasm.

Per the study, it is released from the bulbourethral glands, also known as Cowper’s glands, which are two pea-sized glands located between the prostate and the base of the penis. The glands of Littre also contribute fluid. Unlike semen, which is released during ejaculation, it is unclear how much, if any, viable sperm precum may contain.

The study noted that precum amounts vary from individual to individual. Some do not produce any, and some may produce as much as 5mL.

Pregnancy Risk

«Most of the evidence leans toward pre-ejaculate containing no sperm, or only very tiny amounts of sperm,» Michael Reitano, MD, physician-in-residence for the men’s health website Roman, told Health. «What sperm is found [in precum] tends to be poorly formed and immobile. Men are considered infertile if they have too little sperm, so the tiny amounts that may be found in pre-ejaculate are extremely unlikely to result in pregnancy.»

Still, while pregnancy is highly unlikely, it’s not impossible.

«It just takes one good swimmer,» said Amanda Kallen, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. In other words, it is possible for one hardy sperm in your partner’s precum to travel past your cervix and fertilize an egg.

No wonder «pulling out» is such a poor form of birth control. «The pull-out method, if used perfectly, has a failure rate of about 4%,» Dr. Kallen said. «But in real life, it’s more like 22%.»

Even if someone thinks they’ve pulled out in time, it doesn’t always work out that way. «A man may believe he withdrew before the start of ejaculation, but the timing of an orgasm and ejaculation is not always perfectly coordinated,» Dr. Reitano said. «He may begin to ejaculate a moment before he senses his orgasm. What is released then is not precum, but the actual first small emissions of ejaculation.»

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The Purpose of Precum

The reason for precum isn’t for carrying sperm. According to Dr. Reitano, it’s a basic fluid that is released to protect sperm from the acid environment of the urethra and the vagina. It also aids in lubrication to some degree.

However, precum carries another risk besides a hidden sperm or two. «Precum can transmit sexually transmitted [infections],» Dr. Reitano said. «Precum may not have sperm, but it can easily contain any infectious material a person may carry, and this means the [infection] can be transmitted to a partner.»

Preventing Pregnancy

Per a study presented in the International Journal of Medicine and Biomedical Research, precum itself likely does not contain sperm. However, sperm may be present in the urethra. So, the study recommended people with penises urinate prior to sex to clear the urethra if they are planning on using the withdrawal method.

Additionally, as said by Dr. Reitano, timing withdrawal prior to an orgasm and ejaculation can be challenging, and the individual may not pull out in time.

If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, your best bet is to use a form of birth control—whether through a prescription by your healthcare professional (such as an IUD, injection, implant, or birth control pills), a condom, or both.

While precum is unlikely to contain much, if any, sperm, there is the possibility sperm exists in precum, and precum can also transmit sexually transmitted infections.

If you had unprotected sex and are concerned about the risk of pregnancy, Plan B is an over-the-counter emergency contraceptive designed to prevent pregnancy. Plan B is most effective when taken within three days of unprotected sex. While it is less effective at preventing pregnancy after three days, it can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex.

Per Yale Health, Ella is another form of emergency contraception. Ella requires a prescription from a healthcare professional. However, Ella is effective up to five days after unprotected sex and may be more effective at preventing pregnancy in those with a higher body mass index (BMI).

A long-acting form of birth control, the copper coil, can also be used for emergency contraception. Copper coils are an intrauterine device and must be inserted by a trained healthcare professional.


So, while precum itself likely does not contain much viable sperm, if any, as Dr. Kallen said, it only takes one sperm to fertilize an egg. If you are trying to prevent pregnancy, your best course of action is to talk to your healthcare professional about the best birth control options for your lifestyle.

And, if you did have unprotected sex and are concerned about pregnancy, Plan B is available over the counter. Or, depending on your needs, you can reach out to a healthcare professional for prescription options such as Ella or a copper coil.

If you are beyond the timeframe for emergency contraception or are concerned about the possibility of pregnancy, you could take an at-home pregnancy test as soon as the first day of a missed period. If your periods are irregular, it is recommended that you test four weeks from when you last had sex.

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