Get ready. All those Qs about pre-cum that you feel like you should know the answers to but aren’t actually sure, are about to be answered. (We had them too, don’t worry!)

What is pre-cum?

Pre-cum, also known as pre-ejaculation, is fluid produced by a pair of pea-sized glands right underneath the prostate, behind the urethra, called the Bulbourethral glands, or Cowper’s glands.  

What is pre-cum made of?

Is it the same as regular cum?

Why does pre-cum happen?

Pre-cum is released via the tip of the penis during arousal to help lubricate the penis for a smoother penetrative process and to protect sperm from the acidity of urine for a better chance of making it to that egg (1). #oneholeprobs #genius

When does pre-cum happen?

Another great Q because, well, we can’t really answer it!  Pre-cum can sorta happen at any time during arousal, prior to full on ejaculation.  Because pre-cum is involuntary, most people can’t tell when it is going to happen.

Do people with vaginas pre-cum?

Can I get pregnant from pre-cum?

The short answer is yes.  If you are in your fertile window and there is motile sperm in that pre-cum, it is possible to get pregnant if you are not using a barrier method and/or other form of birth control. If you scour the interwebs, you’ll see that many articles say that although pre-cum has the word “cum” in it, it typically doesn’t contain live sperm unless the person had recently ejaculated- in which case, then it is possible.  But, we found this study which showed otherwise;  The men in this study actually had motile sperm in their pre-ejaculate (the samples were tested very soon post collection, which is what, they think, accounts for the difference from previous studies which found no motile sperm).  So, we say: play. it. safe.

How can you tell if it is pre-cum or cum?

Few ways.

  • Color + texture-  full on cum, or ejaculate tends to be more of cloudy, white, thicker fluid whereas pre-cum tends to be thinner and clear (1)

  • Smell- full on cum may smell a bit like chlorine or bleach. Pre-cum is typically odorless. (3)

  • Volume- The amount of pre-cum ranges from one drop to a teaspoon (4), while full on ejaculate can range from 1.5 ml to 7.6 ml, or as much as closer to a tablespoon (1).

  • Communication- your sexual partner will be able to tell if they are ejaculating, or going to.  So, while they may not be able to tell you when they pre-ejaculate, they can tell you before they fully ejaculate. If you are ever unsure, ask! You can also always ask for them to give you a warning before they cum.

Can STIs be transferred via pre-cum?

Simple answer here.  Yes. So stay safe out there.

How to stay safe from pre-cum?

The best ways to stay safe from pre-cum is to use a form of birth control as well as a barrier method for STI protection (unless your form of birth control does both). Unfortunately, you can’t tell from just looking at it whether  

What happens if I had unprotected sex and they didn’t cum, but there was pre-cum?

Few questions to ask yourself here:

  1. Are you on another form of birth control?

  2. If you track your cycle, are you in your fertile window?

  3. What is your partner’s STI status? When was the last time they were tested?

The answers to the above question may be helpful in deciding what your next steps are, When in doubt, always check in with your provider!  

Written by: Maya Wharton


  1. Christiano, Donna. 2018. “Is Male Discharge Normal?” (accessed March 10 2019)

  2. World Health Organization. “WHO laboratory manual for the Examination and processing of human semen.” Fifth Edition (2010): 15-17.;jsessionid=F577E96867A29CC002AE25F470B4FFF3?sequence=1

  3. Jewell, Tim. 2018. “Is it Normal For Semen to Smell?” (accessed March 10 2019)

  4. "What is pre-ejaculate or precum?" ISSM. 21 Sept. 2018. 22 Feb. 2019.