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Pre-ejaculate (also known as pre-ejaculatory fluid, preseminal fluid, or Cowper's fluid, and colloquially as pre-cum) is the clear, colorless, viscous fluid that emits from the urethra of a man's penis when he is sexually aroused. It is similar in composition to semen, but has some significant chemical differences. Among men with certain infectious diseases, pre-ejaculate can often contain disease pathogens. The presence of sperm in the fluid appears to be rare.[1][2][3][4] Pre-ejaculate is believed to function as a lubricant and an acid neutralizer. The amount of pre-ejaculate emitted varies widely between individual men.

Origin and composition[]

The fluid is discharged during arousal, masturbation, foreplay or at an early stage during sex, some time before the man fully reaches orgasm and semen is ejaculated. It is primarily produced by the bulbourethral glands (Cowper's glands), with the glands of Littre (the mucus-secreting urethral glands) also contributing.[5]

The amount of fluid that the human male issues varies widely among individuals. Some men do not produce any pre-ejaculate fluid,[6] while others emit as much as 5 ml.[5][2]

Pre-ejaculate contains some chemicals associated with semen, such as acid phosphatase. Some semen markers, such as gamma-glutamyltransferase, are completely absent from pre-ejaculate fluid.[7]


Acidic environments are hostile to sperm. Pre-ejaculate neutralizes residual acidity in the urethra caused by urine, creating a more favorable environment for the passage of sperm. The vagina is normally acidic, so the deposit of pre-ejaculate before the emission of semen may change the vaginal environment to promote sperm survival.[5]

Pre-ejaculate also acts as a lubricant during sexual activity,[5] and plays a role in semen coagulation.[5]


Studies have demonstrated the presence of HIV in most pre-ejaculate samples from infected men. Infection with HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).[1][8][9]

Many[attribution needed] also express concern that pre-ejaculate may contain sperm which can cause pregnancy, using this to argue against the use of coitus interruptus (withdrawal) as a contraceptive method. However some studies have found that withdrawal could be almost as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy.[10] This being in direct contradiction to conventional wisdom, however, careful research and consideration should be used before using withdrawal as a contraceptive practice. There have been several studies that conclude no sperm is present and thus pre-ejaculate is ineffectual at causing pregnancy.[1][2][3][4] It is likely, however, that pre-ejaculate which follows a recent ejaculation will contain sperm, as some ejaculate is always left in the duct after orgasm.[11]


In rare cases, a man may produce an excessive amount of pre-ejaculate fluid that can be a cause of embarrassment or irritation. A few case reports have indicated satisfactory results when such men are treated with a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor.[12]

In such cases, one doctor recommended considering the differential diagnosis of prostatorrhea, the emission of prostatic secretions during straining associated with urination or defecation.[12]

Religious attitudes[]

In Islam, after the emission of pre-ejaculate fluid, ritual purification is recommended, by washing the affected areas (including clothing) by water.[13]However, it does not require Ghusl, unlike the semen which comes after the ejaculation. Having a pre-ejaculate fluid which came out of the penis has the same effect as doing excretion. In other words it is considered as a hygienic issue more than a sexual issue. For many other religions, pre-ejaculate is not of significance.

Image gallery[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 (October 1993). Researchers find no sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid. Contraceptive Technology Update 14 (10): 154–156.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Zukerman Z.; Weiss D.B.; Orvieto R. (April 2003). Short Communication: Does Preejaculatory Penile Secretion Originating from Cowper's Gland Contain Sperm?. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 20 (4): 157–159.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Free M, Alexander N (1976). Male contraception without prescription. A reevaluation of the condom and coitus interruptus. Public Health Rep 91 (5): 437–45.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Clark, S. (Sep 1981). An examination of the sperm content of human pre-ejaculatory fluid. [Unpublished].
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Chudnovsky, A., Niederberger, C.S. (2007). Copious Pre-Ejaculation: Small Glands--Major Headaches. Journal of Andrology 28 (3): 374., which cites:
    Chughtai B, Sawas A, O'Malley RL, Naik RR, Ali Khan S, Pentyala S (April 2005). A neglected gland: a review of Cowper's gland. Int. J. Androl. 28 (2): 74–7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Chudnovskycite" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Vazquez E (1997). Is it safe to suck?. Posit Aware 8 (4): 15.
  7. Gohara WF (February 1980). Rate of decrease of glutamyltransferase and acid phosphatase activities in the human vagina after coitus. Clin. Chem. 26 (2): 254–7.
  8. Pudney, J., Oneta, M., Mayer, K., Seage, G., Anderson, D. (1992). Pre-ejaculatory fluid as potential vector for sexual transmission of HIV-1. Lancet 340: 1470.
  9. Ilaria, G., Jacobs, J.L., Polsky, B., et al. (1992). Detection of HIV-1 DNA sequences in pre-ejaculatory fluid. Lancet 340 (8833): 1469.
  10. Jones, R.K., Fennell, J., Higgins, J.A. and Blanchard, K. (2009). Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal. Contraception 79 (6): 407–410.
  11. (2004). Withdrawal Method. Planned Parenthood. URL accessed on 2006-09-01.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Chudnovsky, A. and C.S. Niederberger (2007)
  13. Karamali, Hamza The pre-ejaculate fluid, madhy, calls for washing and ablution before praying. SunniPath: The Online Islamic Academy. URL accessed on 2008-07-12.

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