You know the important details about male ejaculate: the average ejaculation can contain hundreds of millions of sperm, those little sperm are what fertilizes an egg to create a pregnancy, and it can carry STIs. But what about the other ejaculate? You know, pre-ejaculate, or the fluid that dribbles out of a penis before the real deal? It turns out this stuff is just as important in the whole sex (and reproductive) process. Dr. Deb Laino — a sex therapist in Delaware — shed some light on the overture to actual ejaculate, or pre-ejaculate.
Can it get you pregnant?
The bottom line is: Yes. Laino said there’s still sperm in pre-ejaculate, though not as much as actual ejaculate. But what makes this risky still is that men don’t have as much control over pre-ejaculate as they do when they ejaculate with orgasm. It can happen without warning, which means it can happen before you’ve had a chance to put on a condom, if that’s your primary method of birth control.
How is it different from actual ejaculate?
Laino explained that the primary difference is where it comes from. “Pre-ejaculate comes from Cowper’s gland secretions, the other, actual ejaculate comes from the testicles,” Laino said. “There’s a difference in where they come from — but it’s the same fluid.” When a healthy man gets aroused, the Cowper’s glands (also called Bulbourerthral glands) produce pre-ejaculate, which flows out of the urethra — the same tube that ejaculate and urine flow through in the penis. It is suspected that the sperm in pre-ejaculate “leaks” in, as sperm doesn’t originate in the Cowper’s glands.
What’s the purpose of pre-ejaculate?
Pre-ejaculate has two primary responsibilities: Clearing out the urethra, as Laino said, and adding lubrication to the vagina of a female partner. Pre-ejaculate clears the urethra by neutralizing any acidity (which is debilitating to sperm and therefore, a potential pregnancy), and because it’s wet, helps to lubricate a partner’s vagina. “It’s almost like a clear-out, clean out lubricant for the male urethra,” Laino said.
Is there a female equivalent?
You betcha! “There are these little glands in the female called the Bartholin’s glands and they’re synonymous with the Cowper’s glands [in men],” Laino said. “They are right in the entryway of the vagina and secrete moisture as well — little drops of lubricant in the female.” So they’re synonymous in that they create lubrication to help ease of penetrative sex. But that’s about it.
Okay, so now what?
The risks may be lower, but they’re still there. You can still contract STIs from pre-ejaculate, and although it’s not incredibly likely, you can still get pregnant. Make sure your partner wears a condom before making contact with your vagina. It’s just safer!