Talking about premature ejaculation can be difficult for both yourself and your partner. But it’s a common problem that many couples have got over together. Learn more about treating premature ejaculation & the help available 

The term 'premature ejaculation’ is usually used when a man regularly ejaculates earlier than he and his partner would like him to during sex. As with all sex-related issues, it's highly personal. It's impossible to put a number on how long sex should last, but if it becomes an issue in the relationship then help is out there.

Experiencing premature ejaculation now and again is quite normal and fairly common. It's difficult to estimate how many men experience it, as many don't report their symptoms, but it's thought to be up to 30 percent.

If it's happening at least half the time you have sex and is causing you or your partner upset, it's worth looking for help.

Causes of premature ejaculation

Some men experience premature ejaculation from the first time they're sexually active. For others, it develops later. The causes can be physical, psychological, or both. 

Physical causes

• Men who develop premature ejaculation very suddenly may have a problem with their thyroid or prostate gland, so it's important for them to see their GP
• Premature ejaculation can be connected to using recreational drugs
• Some men find their penis is extra sensitive, meaning they're more prone to premature ejaculation

Psychological causes

• Teenage boys anxious about being caught masturbating sometimes aim to ejaculate quickly. This habit can develop into persistent premature ejaculation 
• If your partner's culture has strict moral views on sex or masturbation, it may cause anxiety about sex that can lead to premature ejaculation
• Some men experience premature ejaculation due to anxiety about performance – especially if the relationship's quite new
• Experiencing stress or depression can sometimes result in premature ejaculation
• Boys and men who've experienced sexual trauma can sometimes develop premature ejaculation as a result

Remind your partner that you are there to support them and encourage them to talk to you, or a doctor, about any incidents in their past that may have resulted in them developing premature ejaculation. 

Talking to your partner about premature ejaculation

Discussing premature ejaculation can be hard for you both. Your partner may be anxious about his sexual abilities, worried about his health or upset at sharing traumatic events. It's best to raise the subject at a time when sex is definitely not on the agenda. If he approaches you to talk about it, try to be patient and understanding – it's probably taken a lot of courage for him to discuss his concerns.

Managing premature ejaculation

Encourage your partner to see his GP. They'll check for physical causes and prescribe any necessary treatment.

Self-help techniques can help to make a difference:

• If your partner masturbates an hour or two before having sex, controlling ejaculation can be easier
• A thick condom can decrease sensation and help to prolong sex
• Taking breaks during sex, or pausing when your partner's close to ejaculating, can help to train the body to delay ejaculation

If there's no physical cause and self-help techniques aren't improving things, medication to help with premature ejaculation can be considered. This includes:

• A medicine called dapoxetine (Priligy is the brand name) which can be taken one to three hours before sex to help delay ejaculation
• Anaesthetic cream or spray can help to reduce sensitivity, and can be bought from pharmacies
• Other medicines can be prescribed by a GP

Priligy is available as a treatment option through the Boots Online Doctor Premature Ejaculation Clinic*. An online consultation will assess if treatment is suitable for you. Priligy can also be prescribed by a GP.

How does therapy for couples help?

Premature ejaculation can have a big impact on a relationship. Visiting a relationship counsellor can help you explore potential issues together. To find a relationship counsellor, visit the NHS website and put in your postcode.

Discussing any problems with a psychologist can often improve your relationship and help to resolve premature ejaculation symptoms. During therapy, couples may also learn about different techniques you can try to help delay ejaculation. Here are some common ones:

The 'squeeze' technique

This involves having your partner masturbating you to the point of ejaculation then squeezing on the head of the penis for about 10 to 20 seconds. Then, wait for half a minute before starting all over again. The cycle is repeated for a few more times before allowing ejaculation to occur.

The 'stop-go' technique

This uses the same principles as above, but your partner doesn't squeeze on the penis. This is usually harder but it's a natural progression from the 'squeeze' technique. Once you and your partner feel more comfortable, you can have sex normally, stopping or proceeding as needed.

It's important to remember that premature ejaculation doesn't mean your partner is failing at sex. It's a common problem that many couples have got over together.

Next steps

• Talk to your partner about premature ejaculation at a time when sex is not on the agenda
• Encourage him to visit his GP to rule out any physical causes
• Work together to practise self-help techniques

*Subject to availability and clinician approval. Charges apply.