What Does Pre Cum Look Like

What Does Pre Cum Look Like
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: What Is Precum. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Sperm cells can be killed by urine because the pH level of the fluid is more than sperm can live in. Since ejaculate and urine leave the body through the same tube, it’s possible that sperm can be affected by its acidity level.

What Is Pre-Ejaculate?

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.


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

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).”

What Is Precum?

S. Nicole Lane is a freelance health journalist focusing on sexual health and LGBTQ wellness. She is also the editorial associate for the Chicago Reader.

Updated on March 05, 2023

Matthew Wosnitzer, MD, is a board-certified urologic surgeon and physician scientist. He specializes in male infertility.

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Table of Contents

Precum is a clear fluid that comes out of the penis during arousal but before orgasm. Precum is a lubricant that does not usually contain sperm. However, there may already be sperm in the urethra that mixes with the fluid as it passes through. If precum is released into the vagina, there’s a risk of pregnancy before ejaculation.

Also Known As

  • Pre-ejaculate
  • Pre-seminal fluid
  • Cowper’s fluid

Precum looks like semen—the white fluid that comes out of the penis during an orgasm. In addition to reducing friction during intercourse, precum makes it easier for sperm to leave the body.

This article will go over what precum is and what it does. It will also cover how much precum is normal and the chances of getting pregnant from precum.

bagi1998 / E+ / Getty Images

What’s the Difference Between Precum and Semen?

Precum is one of several sexual fluids that are made by the body of someone with a penis. The most common fluid is semen, which has sperm in it. When a person with a penis has an orgasm, the fluid (ejaculate) is released.

Sperm are made in the testes. The body also makes a nutrient-rich fluid (seminal fluid) that helps sperm move.

Precum is made in the Cowper’s glands. It usually does not have live sperm in it. The name “precum” makes sense because the fluid is released before semen.

Precum is made in the Cowper’s glands. This pair of pea-sized glands are behind the penis on the inside of the body. They’re about half an inch in diameter and connected to the urethra by ducts.

While semen has sperm in it, precum usually does not. It’s mostly made up of nutrients and other substances that help keep semen healthy. Even though precum is not meant to have sperm in it, sperm can get into the fluid as it’s leaving the body.

What Does Precum Do?

Sperm cells can be killed by urine because the pH level of the fluid is more than sperm can live in. Since ejaculate and urine leave the body through the same tube, it’s possible that sperm can be affected by its acidity level.

Pre-ejaculate can neutralize the acidity (alkaline) in the urethra, which clears the way for sperm to travel through it safely.

Precum is also a natural lubricant for sexual intercourse. It’s similar to the fluid that’s made by people with a vagina when they are aroused.

How Much Precum Is Normal?

There’s no “normal” or “abnormal” amount of precum. How much precum a person makes can vary.

On average, most people leak up to 4 milliliters (ml) of fluid. A person does not control how much precum is released or when it comes out.

Most people do not notice or feel when precum is released. It’s easy not to feel the little bit of wetness at the tip of the penis from precum during sex. A person with a penis cannot control precum, and there’s no way to tell if the fluid has sperm in it.

Can You Get Pregnant From Precum?

The chances of getting pregnant from precum are low, but it’s not impossible. Even if precum only contacts the outside of the vulva, pregnancy could happen (though it’s not likely).

Precum does not typically have sperm in it. However, if the fluid travels through the urethra soon after a person has ejaculated, sperm can be picked up.

Studies have found that if a person has intercourse after a recent sexual encounter, precum can mix with sperm that was left behind in the urethra.

There is no way to tell whether precum has sperm in it or not.

In one study, 41% of people had precum that contained sperm that were moving, which suggested they would be capable of reaching and fertilizing an egg.

The ability of sperm to get picked up by precum is why the pull-out method (withdrawal) is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy. A 2017 study found that the withdrawal method had a 20% failure rate compared to 13% for condoms and 6% for hormonal birth control.

The risk of getting pregnant from precum is affected by the same factors that affect your chances of getting pregnant from ejaculation.

For example, where a person is in their menstrual cycle, whether they have just ovulated, and the method of birth control being used (and how it’s being used).

What About Precum After Vasectomy?

If a person with a penis has had a vasectomy, their ejaculate and precum will no longer contain sperm.

That said, people do sometimes get pregnant after a partner has had a vasectomy. It takes a few months after the procedure for the sperm to no longer be in semen, so having sex too soon after a vasectomy can carry a risk for pregnancy.

Only about 1 out of 1,000 people get pregnant in the first year after their partner gets a vasectomy.

How to Prevent Pregnancy From Precum

The only way to prevent pregnancy from precum is to use birth control. You and a partner can discuss the methods (or combination of methods) that work best for you.

If you were exposed to precum and are worried about pregnancy, know that it takes a fertilized egg (embryo) about ten days to implant into the uterus. You may want to take a pregnancy test around that time, especially if your period is late.

If you had sex without protection and are concerned about pregnancy from precum, you might consider using emergency contraception. You have a few options:

  • The morning-after pill (Plan B One-Step): You can buy this form of emergency birth control without a prescription. It’s available at pharmacies and online. Plan B One-Step is most effective at preventing pregnancy if you take it within three days of having unprotected sex.
  • The Ella pill: This type of emergency contraception works better than Plan B One-Step if you take it within five days of having unprotected sex, but you need a prescription from a healthcare provider.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs):Paraguard, Mirena, and Liletta can be implanted within five days of unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. IUDs can then be left in place as long-term reversible contraception (on average, they last from seven to 10 years before you need to have them replaced).

Can Precum Transmit STIs?

Even if you are not concerned about pregnancy, exposure to precum also has other risks. Precum can carry bacteria, viruses, and organisms that cause sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

To protect yourself, use a condom for any sexual contact with a penis and get screened for STIs regularly.

STIs do not always cause symptoms. See your provider if you have green or yellow penile or vaginal discharge and symptoms like pain and itching, as these can be signs of an STI.


Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be spread through precum, as well as blood, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and semen.

If you’re having any form of sex with a partner who is HIV-positive, you can protect yourself by wearing condoms and taking Truvada (pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP). This drug reduces the risk of HIV transmission by 44%.

If you have unprotected sex, get tested regularly for HIV. It’s also important to know the signs and symptoms of HIV, including:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers


Chlamydia is the most common STI in the United States. The bacteria that cause it can live in precum, vaginal fluid, and semen.

Many people do not have symptoms of chlamydia. When they do, the symptoms of chlamydia can include:

  • Vaginal or penile discharge
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain during sex
  • Painful urination

Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but you’ll need to be diagnosed by a provider before you can get a prescription.


Gonorrhea is another common bacterial infection that can be transmitted through precum, semen, and vaginal fluid.

People with gonorrhea do not always have symptoms, but if they do, they can include:

  • Yellow vaginal or penile discharge
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Pain during sex or urination

Gonorrhea can be treated with antibiotics, but you’ll need to see a provider to get tested for it.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a highly infectious virus that affects the liver. It is the only strain of hepatitis that can be transmitted through precum.

Symptoms of hepatitis B typically show up a few months after you’ve been exposed to the virus and include:

  • Joint pain
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

If you think you might have hepatitis B, see your provider. Hepatitis B can be treated, but there is no cure. Most cases clear up in a few months. If not, there are also medications that can slow down liver damage from hepatitis B.

You can also get vaccinated against hepatitis B to protect yourself.


Precum is not the same as ejaculate. Precum usually does not have any sperm in it, but still carries a risk of pregnancy and STIs.

The only way to prevent pregnancy or STIs from precum is to practice the same birth control that you’d use for sex where ejaculation occurs, such as condoms, birth control pills, or an IUD.

It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your partner(s) about their sexual and testing history. While it’s best for this conversation to happen before a sexual encounter, it’s never too late to talk about these important topics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is precum caused by?

Precum is an involuntary response to sexual arousal before an orgasm. It lubricates the urethra of the penis and neutralizes acid to make it safer for sperm to travel through.

12 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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  2. International Planned Parenthood Foundation. What is pre-ejaculate?.
  3. Chughtai B, Sawas A, O’Malley RL, Naik RR, Ali Khan S, Pentyala S. A neglected gland: a review of Cowper’s gland.Int J Androl. 2005;28(2):74-77. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2005.00499.x
  4. Lee MY, Dalpiaz A, Schwamb R, Miao Y, Waltzer W, Khan A. Clinical pathology of bartholin’s glands: a review of the literature. CUR. 2014;8(1):22-25.
  5. Planned Parenthood. Can you feel it when you pre-cum?.
  6. Planned Parenthood. How effective is a vasectomy?.
  7. Deneux-Tharaux C, Kahn E, Nazerali H, Sokal DC. Pregnancy rates after vasectomy: a survey of US urologists. Contraception. 2004;69(5):401-406. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2003.12.009
  8. Planned Parenthood. What’s the Plan B morning after pill?.
  9. Planned Parenthood. What’s the ella morning-after pill?.
  10. Planned Parenthood. How do IUDs work as emergency contraception?.
  11. Pudney J, Oneta M, Mayer K, Seage G, Anderson D. Pre-ejaculatory fluid as potential vector for sexual transmission of HIV-1.Lancet. 1992;340(8833):1470. doi:10.1016/0140-6736(92)92659-4
  12. Grant RM, Lama JR, Anderson PL, et al. Preexposure chemoprophylaxis for hiv prevention in men who have sex with men.New England Journal of Medicine. 2010;363(27):2587-2599. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1011205

By S. Nicole Lane
S. Nicole Lane is a freelance health journalist focusing on sexual health and LGBTQ wellness. She is also the editorial associate for the Chicago Reader.

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