Semen Retention: Benefits, Risks and Side Effects of Not Ejaculating

Man meditating while practicing semen retention.

What Is Semen Retention?

Semen retention is the practice of intentionally abstaining from ejaculating for a prolonged period. There are different forms of semen retention, including the avoidance of all sexual activity, stopping right before the moment of ejaculating, or learning how to achieve an orgasm without the ejaculate leaving the body.

Semen retention is believed to provide a number of possible benefits, including improvements to physical and psychological wellbeing, as well as spiritual development.

Even though this practice has gained in popularity over recent years, semen retention has actually been practiced for thousands of years as a way to boost vital physical and spiritual energy.

​There is currently insufficient evidence to draw any conclusions about the possible benefits of semen retention. On the other hand, there is little evidence suggesting that there are significant health risks associated with the practice.

Related: What Is Semen?

Practices That Incorporate Semen Retention

Semen retention is also referred to by other terms, including coitus reservatus, seminal conservation and sexual continence. Its use is found in a number of disciplines, including:


Maithuna (a Sanskrit word for “sexual union”), is a tantric yoga practice that is more than just sex for pleasure. Maithuna is a form of ritual sex, or sacred sex, that can be described as the union between male and female energies.


Fángzhōngshù (meaning “arts of the bedchamber”) are Taoist sexual practices that are believed to maintain good health, increase longevity and promote spiritual advancement. Semen retention is one of the most important themes in Taoism. In this practice, there are restrictions on how and when a male can have orgasm or ejaculate in order to preserve vital energy, or “chi”.


Karezza (an Italian word that means “caress”) is a practice that emphasizes gentle and affectionate intercourse without reaching orgasm. It might also include other forms of bonding, such as kissing, soft touches, holding, gazing, cuddling, deep breathing.

The goal is to increase intimacy, improve communication, and deepen bonding and connection between partners.

Is Semen Retention Harmful?

Currently, there is little medical evidence to indicate that retaining semen is either harmful or healthy. When a man abstains from ejaculating, his semen will eventually be broken down naturally and absorbed by the body.

Benefits Of Semen Retention

There are numerous potential benefits that are believed to be associated with semen retention. Some of the purported benefits to not ejaculating include:

Physical Benefits

  • Healthier skin
  • Boosts testosterone
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Improves overall health and fitness
  • Deepens voice

Mental/Psychological Benefits

  • Increased energy levels
  • Better mood and motivation
  • Boosts self-confidence
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Improved memory and cognition
  • Greater focus and concentration

Spiritual Benefits

  • Promotes a sense of having greater purpose.
  • Helps to strengthen emotional connections between couples.
  • Preserves and strengthens vital life energy.

It is also thought that abstaining from ejaculating for longer periods of time can allow for more intense orgasms. Furthermore, premature ejaculation could also potentially be improved by using some of the techniques associated with these practices.

Additionally, it is believed by some that semen retention can increase sperm quality, and thus fertility. This has not been proven to be true, however. In fact, ejaculatory abstinence periods exceeding 4 days can have a negative effect on sperm quality, according to one 2018 study.(1)

Risks and Side Effects

While there aren’t many risks or side effects involved when abstaining from ejaculating, complications can sometimes still occur on occasion. These include ejaculation issues, epididymal hypertension, and a potentially increased risk for developing prostate cancer.

Epididymal Hypertension

Epididymal hypertension is caused by a buildup in blood in the testicles due to sexual arousal that doesn’t lead to an orgasm or ejaculation. Commonly referred to as “blue balls”, this condition causes discomfort or pain in the testicles.

More common in younger adults, the condition is harmless and can be resolved by either ejaculating or reducing exposure to sexual arousal.

Ejaculation Issues

If a man avoids ejaculating or having an orgasm over a prolonged period, it could potentially lead to ejaculation problems.

For instance, he might find it difficult to ejaculate or have an orgasm, or he could experience premature ejaculation. There is also the potential for developing retrograde ejaculation, which is when semen travels back into the bladder instead of out from the penis.

Increased Risk For Prostate Cancer

Evidence suggests that the frequency of ejaculation may be linked with the risk of prostatic cancer. Those men who frequently ejaculate have lower rates of prostate cancer compared to men who don’t.

A large-scale 10-year study found that men who ejaculated more than 20 times per month were only half as likely to develop prostate cancer as men who ejaculated 4-7 times per month.(2)

When Should You Avoid Semen Retention?

Men experiencing any discomfort or pain as a result of semen retention should stop the practice. You should also stop practicing semen retention if you find that you are unable to ejaculate when you decide to (a condition called anejaculation).

Men who want to father children and become unable to ejaculate should consult a doctor.


There is no clear evidence that not ejaculating is particularly helpful or harmful. You can choose to stop engaging in sexual activity for as long or as you want. You may also try using different techniques that help prevent or delay ejaculation during sex, such as those found in Tantric and Taoist teachings.

There is no standard rule for how often a person should ejaculate, and you should go with what feels right to you.

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