Premature ejaculation is the most common ejaculation problem. It's where the male ejaculates too quickly during sexual intercourse.
A study looking at 500 couples from five different countries found the average time taken to ejaculate during intercourse was around five-and-a-half minutes. However, it's up to each couple to decide if they’re happy with the time taken – there’s no definition of how long sex should last.
Occasional episodes of premature ejaculation
are common and aren't a cause for concern. However, if you're finding that around half of your attempts at sex result in premature ejaculation, it might help to get treatment.
Causes of premature ejaculation Various psychological and physical factors can cause a man to suddenly experience premature ejaculation.
Common physical causes include:
thyroid problems – an overactive or underactive thyroid
gland using recreational drugs
Common psychological causes include:
anxiety about sexual performance (particularly at the start of a new relationship, or when a man has had previous problems with sexual performance)
It's possible, but less common, for a man to have always experienced premature ejaculation since becoming sexually active. A number of possible causes for this are:
Conditioning – it's possible that early sexual experiences can influence future sexual behaviour. For example, if a teenager conditions himself to ejaculate quickly to avoid being caught masturbating, it may later be difficult to break the habit.
A traumatic sexual experience from childhood – this can range from being caught masturbating to sexual abuse.
A strict upbringing and beliefs about sex.
Biological reasons – some men may find their penis is extra sensitive.
Treating premature ejaculation
There are a number of things you can try yourself before seeking medical help.
Measures you can try yourself
It can sometimes help to:
masturbate an hour or two before having sex
use a thick condom to help decrease sensation
take a deep breath
to briefly shut down the ejaculatory reflex (an automatic reflex of the body during which ejaculation occurs)
have sex with your partner on top (to allow them to pull away when you are close to ejaculating)
take breaks during sex and think about something boring
If you're in a long-term relationship, you may benefit from having couples therapy. During these sessions, the therapist will:
encourage couples to explore any relationship issues they have, and give them advice about resolving them
show the couple techniques that can help you "unlearn" the habit of premature ejaculation (the two most popular techniques are the "squeeze" and "stop-go" techniques)
In the squeeze technique, your partner masturbates you, but stops before the point of ejaculation and squeezes the head of your penis for between 10 to 20 seconds. They then let go and wait for another 30 seconds before resuming masturbation. This process is carried
out several times before ejaculation is allowed to occur.
The stop-go technique is similar, but your partner doesn’t squeeze your penis. Once you feel more confident about delaying ejaculation, you and your partner can begin to have sex, stopping and starting as required.
These techniques may sound simple, but they require lots of practice.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are designed to treat depression
, but they also delay ejaculation. SSRIs used for this purpose include:
Some men may experience an improvement as soon as treatment begins. However, you'll usually need to take the medication for one to two weeks before you notice the full effects.
Side effects of SSRIs are usually mild and should improve after two to three weeks. They include:
feeling sick and being sick
diarrhoea excessive sweating
Read more about the side effects of SSRIs.
Topical anaesthetics and condoms
The use of topical anaesthetics such as lidocaine
can help but may be transferred and absorbed to the vagina, causing decreased sensation. Condoms can also be used and are effective, particularly when combined with local anaesthesia