What causes premature ejaculation – and what can help?

Last updated:
Reviewed by:
Lead GP at Livi Dr Rhianna McClymont
Dr Rhianna McClymont, Lead GP at Livi
Premature ejaculation is the most common ejaculation problem – but what does it really mean for men, and what treatments or actions can help you control it better?

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Premature ejaculation is a common sexual problem and while occasional experiences are not a cause for concern, it can put a strain on your sex life and relationships.

Ejaculation is controlled by the central nervous system and it usually occurs simultaneously with the male orgasm. Premature ejactulation is when you ejaculate too quickly during sex, while some men orgasm before ejaculation or experience a climax without actually ejaculating semen.

So, what exactly is premature ejaculation?

On average, men ejaculate after 5 minutes of sexual intercourse. But everyone is different, so this can range from less than 1 minute to more than 30 minutes. Occasionally ejaculating too early is common and absolutely nothing to worry about.

A medical diagnosis of premature ejaculation is determined if early ejaculation becomes problematic, for instance if ejaculation always occurs very early on for you – even before penetration or immediately after.

Often, the cause for premature ejaculation is about low self-esteem, since sex come somtimes come with a high level of pressure to perform. The associated stress can make the problem even worse, and can result in avoidance behaviour and cause other symptoms like erectile dysfunction.

How many men are affected by premature ejaculation?

It’s estimated that around 20% of men are affected by premature ejaculation, with far fewer men experiencing the problem speaking to a doctor. It’s therefore assumed that about 4% of men have little or no control over ejaculation and experience stress as a result.

Who does it affect most?

Premature ejaculation can occur at any age, from puberty onwards. The initial symptoms often happen when you have your first sexual experiences, and they can reoccur or continue in later life and with different partners.

What are the key causes of premature ejaculation?

Premature ejaculations can be primary (life-long) or secondary (acquired). Those affected by primary premature ejaculation will experience it during their first sexual activities, whereas acquired premature ejaculation can develop over the course of your life.

Possible causes of premature ejaculation include:

  • Mental health problems
  • Stress and depression – relationship problems or unrealistic ideas of sexual performance can further contribute
  • Physical disorders
  • Premature ejaculation may occur as a symptom of various underlying problems, like prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), erectile dysfunction or thyroid issues.

What can help with premature ejaculation?

If the issue is troubling you and your partner, try to address it in your relationship. Having open, honest conversations means you can work through it together. Remember that sex can be fulfilling for both partners, even with premature ejaculation.

These methods may also help:

- The stop-start method

Just as it sounds, this method means deliberately pausing during intercourse to delay ejaculation. This requires some practice but by doing so, you can learn to pay more attention to how you react sexually and to recognise the point at which ejaculation becomes inevitable.

- Pelvic floor training

You can train the pelvic floor muscle, just like the biceps and abdominals. In the case of premature ejaculation, pelvic floor exercises can help with better bodily control. You’ll find some tips on pelvic floor training here.

- Use a condom

A condom can reduce the sensitivity of the penis, helping to delay ejaculation during sex. There are even special condoms containing gels that have a slight numbing effect.

- Try again

Some people benefit from a ‘second round’ of sex, after the initial early ejaculation. Once ejaculation has happened, the level of sensitivity decreases, so sex can last longer the second time around. Masturbating an hour before intercourse can also be helpful.

When should I see a doctor about premature ejaculation?

If it continues to bother you or becomes a problem in your relationship, you could speak to a doctor. In most cases, premature ejaculation is easily treated.

The doctor will ask you if you’ve always experienced premature ejaculation (primary) or whether it’s developed over time (secondary). A blood or urine test may also be performed to rule out underlying causes such as prostatitis.

Can I get premature ejaculation treatment in the UK?

If it can’t be treated by different stimulation techniques, like the stop-start method, seeking advice from a urologist may be helpful.

There are different therapeutic approaches – including a drug treatment. However, they can also have unpleasant side effects like nausea and dizziness. Such premature ejaculation drugs should only be used as a last resort and only after a medical consultation.

See a GP about premature ejaculation

If you’re concerned about premature ejaculation, book an appointment to speak to a GP.

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