Semen retention refers to the practice of avoiding ejaculation. Proponents suggest that it has many potential benefits, ranging from physical to emotional and spiritual.
This article will discuss the benefits and risks of semen retention, why some people may do it, and what happens when they do.
Semen retention refers to when a person intentionally avoids ejaculating. A person can do this by abstaining from any sexual activity, stopping before the point of ejaculation, or teaching themselves to orgasm without ejaculating.
Although this practice may seem new, this is likely only due to recent internet popularity. In fact, semen retention is an ancient practice, believed to boost male physical and spiritual energy.
Some other names for semen retention include:
- coitus reservatus
- seminal conservation
- sexual continence
It is also known as or included in practices called:
- karezza (Italian)
- maithuna (Hindu Tantra)
- sahaja (Hindu Yoga)
- tantra (Hinduism and Buddhism)
- cai Yin pu Yang and cai Yang pu Yin (Taoist)
There is not much scientific evidence to suggest that it is either healthy or unhealthy to hold in semen.
If a person does not ejaculate, the body will break the semen down and reabsorb it into the body.
There are many possible reasons that a person may try to hold in their semen. For example, some people believe that semen retention may help with:
- increased motivation
- improved energy and focus
- more self-confidence
- reduced anxiety
- better memory
- improved concentration
- clearer skin
- increased testosterone
- more weight loss
- increased muscle mass
- physical rejuvenation
- a deeper voice
- a greater sense of purpose
- stronger or deeper emotional bonds in relationships
- a stronger sense of overall harmony
Although there are not usually many risks associated with not ejaculating, some complications can occasionally occur.
The following sections will look at these in more detail.
Also known as blue balls, epididymal hypertension is what may happen if a person becomes sexually aroused but does not ejaculate or orgasm.
They may experience aching or pain in the testicles following a period of arousal that does not lead to orgasm. This occurs due to a buildup of blood in the testicles as a result of arousal.
If a person regularly prevents themselves from ejaculating or reaching orgasm, they may develop ejaculation issues.
For example, a person may find themselves unable to ejaculate or orgasm when they want to, or they may experience premature ejaculation. They may also develop retrograde ejaculation, which causes semen to travel back into the bladder.
Some of the potential benefits of not ejaculating may include:
It may lead to a more intense orgasm
There is a belief that not ejaculating for a period of time may allow people to experience more intense orgasms.
However, one small-scale study from 2001 suggests that abstaining from ejaculating for 3 weeks may not have much of a physical impact on a person’s nervous system when they ejaculate.
Edging is the practice of engaging in sexual stimulation to the point of orgasm before stopping and starting again.
According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, edging may help increase the intensity of orgasm in some people.
It may help with premature ejaculation
People who experience premature ejaculation may use techniques similar to edging to prolong their sexual activities.
Methods such as the start-stop or squeeze techniques involve stimulating the penis until just before orgasm, then stopping or squeezing the penis until the urge to ejaculate goes away.
It may increase fertility
Some people may believe that semen retention can improve sperm quality and therefore increase fertility. However, there has been limited research into this.
One older study suggests that to present the best possible semen samples, a person only needs to abstain from ejaculating for 1 day. It also suggests that people should not exceed 10 days of sexual abstinence.
A 2018 study suggests that ejaculatory abstinence periods of more than 4 days have a detrimental effect on sperm. One 2015 study suggests that daily ejaculation does not have any major negative effects on sperm quality.
A 2018 review suggests revisiting the current guidelines of ejaculatory abstinence of between 2–7 days for optimal sperm samples. The review suggests that shortening the abstinence period may be beneficial to sperm quality.
Some of the benefits of ejaculating may include:
It causes pleasure
Although some people believe that ejaculating can be unhealthy, studies often demonstrate the opposite to be true. When a person ejaculates, the body releases endorphins, which are hormones that can help block pain and make a person feel good.
It leads to greater well-being
Typically, frequent sexual activity in a partnered relationship is associated with greater well-being. However, some research suggests that there may be a limit to the correlation between sexual frequency and greater well-being.
Although the above studies looked at partnered sex, it is likely that masturbation has a similar effect on well-being. For example, an older study from 1991 suggested that married women who masturbate have higher self-esteem than those who do not.
It may help prevent prostate cancer
Some evidence suggests that ejaculation frequency may be inversely related to the risk of prostate cancer.
One large-scale study, with a 10-year follow-up period, found that those who ejaculated 21 times per month were 50% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who ejaculated four to seven times per month.
A person should stop preventing themselves from ejaculating if they experience any pain or discomfort associated with the practice. They should also stop preventing ejaculation if they find themselves unable to ejaculate if or when they decide that they want to do so.
A person should see a doctor if they become unable to ejaculate and want to father biological children, as this may need medical intervention. This is known as anejaculation and can occur due to:
- injury to the spinal cord
- an infection
- stress or psychological issues (situational anejaculation)
- pelvic injury or surgery
- medication use, including the use of some antidepressants
- nervous system disorders
If, after deciding to ejaculate, a person finds blood in their semen, they should not panic. This should resolve within a few days. However, it may be worth speaking to a medical professional if a person is concerned.
Currently, there is limited evidence to reach any firm conclusions about the potential benefits of semen retention. However, there has also not been much evidence to suggest that there are potential health risks.
A person can choose to abstain from sexual activity for as long as they wish. They can also try to incorporate techniques such as edging or tantric sex into their sex life to see if it something they enjoy.
There is no set rule for how frequently a person should ejaculate. Therefore, people should try what feels right for them.