Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/17/2021
Premature ejaculation is one of the most common forms of sexual dysfunction, with research suggesting that up to 39 percent of men are affected.
If you suffer from premature ejaculation, you may find that you reach orgasm and ejaculate in relatively little time during sex–typically in as little as one or two minutes.
Most cases of premature ejaculation (or “PE,” for short) are treatable, meaning there’s usually no need to worry about this common sexual problem permanently affecting your sex life.
Common treatments for premature ejaculation include prescription medications, topical sprays and gels, behavioral techniques and options like psychotherapy and counseling.
We’ve covered these premature ejaculation treatment options below, with specific information on the best methods for increasing your time to ejaculation and improving your sexual health and performance.
Before we get into the specifics of treating premature ejaculation, it’s important to explain the basics of what premature ejaculation actually is.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), premature ejaculation is defined as ejaculation that occurs within one minute of vaginal penetration and before the individual wishes it.
The DSM-5 definition also states that premature ejaculation occurs in all or almost all sexual activity (75 to 100% of the time), persists for six months, causes clinical distress and that it isn’t explainable by an external factor such as a medical condition or medication.
Premature ejaculation is often classed as mild, moderate or severe. Mild PE occurs 30 to 60 seconds after vaginal penetration, while severe PE occurs within 15 seconds of sex or even before penetration.
With this in mind, it’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between premature ejaculation and simply reaching orgasm and ejaculating too early.
Thanks to porn, mass media and other sources, it’s common to think that sex needs to last for 15, 30 or even 60+ minutes for both partners to be satisfied.
It also shows that the overall range of time required for men to reach orgasm and ejaculate is really large. While some guys are totally finished in a minute, others last for more than half an hour on average.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that this type of research isn’t perfect. Unlike a test of a drug’s efficacy, for example, it isn’t really practical to test the average amount of time couples spend having sex in a perfectly controlled, distraction-free lab setting.
As such, most studies that analyze intravaginal ejaculatory latency time (the scientific term for “amount of time needed to ejaculate”) are done by couples, at home, using a stopwatch.
In short, there’s no “right” amount of time for you to last in bed before ejaculating. The research that we have, which is admittedly imperfect, shows that most guys last for five to seven minutes–hardly the porn star-like performance we might expect.
What’s more, science shows that women seem to be less concerned about this than men. In one study published in 2003, researchers found that women tended to worry less about their partner’s rapid ejaculation (a term for premature ejaculation) than men did about their own time to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
Put simply, there’s no “ideal” time. Although anything less than a minute might be classified as premature ejaculation, it’s just as normal to have sex for five minutes as it is to last for 30.
If you suffer from premature ejaculation, you may not need to use medication to increase your time to ejaculation.
In fact, many men can gradually stop premature ejaculation and increase their time to orgasm with behavioral therapy techniques.
In one study, men suffering from premature ejaculation were treated through a six-time course of behavioral therapy, two to three times per week.
After the treatment, the men were able to last longer before reaching orgasm and ejaculating during sex.
And the men who took part in the study and their partners reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
The men in the study also reported lower levels of sexual performance anxiety and nervousness–factors that can often contribute to premature ejaculation and other sexual performance issues.
Several different behavioral techniques are used to treat premature ejaculation, including simple techniques that can be performed during sex.
One of the oldest and most effective ways to prevent premature ejaculation is through the use of the “stop-start” strategy during sexual intercourse.
The stop-start strategy is exactly what it sounds like. As you feel that you’re about to reach orgasm and ejaculate during sex, stop for a moment and let the sensation pass, and then repeat the process until you’re ready to ejaculate.
Most books and studies that reference the stop-start strategy advocate stopping as soon as you feel ejaculation approaching.
As simplistic as the stop-start strategy sounds, research shows that it’s a relatively effective way to treat premature ejaculation in the short term.
For example, a scientific review published in Therapeutic Advances in Urology noted that 45 to 65 percent of men with premature ejaculation report benefits from this technique.
However, long-term results on the stop-start technique aren’t as well studied, with relatively little data available.
Since the stop-start strategy doesn’t involve any medications or costly treatments, it’s a helpful first option for stopping premature ejaculation.
You can practice the stop-start technique with your partner or by yourself. As you feel yourself approaching orgasm, stop the stimulation and take a break to let yourself recover.
Once you’ve felt the sensation pass, try repeating this process until you feel more confident in your ability to control your orgasm and ejaculation.
Another common behavioral technique used to manage premature ejaculation is the “squeeze” or “pause-squeeze.”
Just like the stop-start strategy, the squeeze method is exactly what it sounds like.
During sex, as you’re approaching orgasm and ejaculation, you firmly squeeze the area between the shaft and glans of your penis to stop yourself from ejaculating.
Although there’s no exact amount of time that you should squeeze your penis, most resources suggest around 30 seconds. It’s okay for your partner to do this for you.
By using the squeeze technique, you can delay orgasm and ejaculation several times, allowing yourself to last for longer during penetrative sex.
Like the stop-start technique, the squeeze technique is generally effective, but also has certain downsides.
Since it results in a stop in your sexual activity and pleasure, it may become an annoyance for both you and your partner.
During the brief stop in sex, you may develop a weaker erection–something that might affect your sexual performance and enjoyment if you’re prone to erectile dysfunction.
Sometimes, the easiest way to increase your time to ejaculation is to simply masturbate shortly before you plan to have sex.
While there’s no scientific evidence to support this method (not surprisingly, finding a group of subjects willing to participate is a challenge for researchers), many men find that masturbation shortly before sex is an effective way to delay orgasm and stop premature ejaculation.
The idea behind this approach is that during the refractory period (a recovery phase that occurs after orgasm), most men won’t be able to orgasm for a little while.
There’s some debate about the male refractory period in the sexual medicine community, and the approach is largely unproven.
Still, it’s a simple, inexpensive and low-risk method you can try to slow the process of reaching orgasm and prevent yourself from ejaculating too soon.
Research shows that kegel exercises, which strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, can help increase ejaculatory latency and treat premature ejaculation.
For example, a 2014 study published in Therapeutic Advances in Urology found that men who performed pelvic floor muscle exercises for 12 weeks developed greater control over their ejaculatory reflex and increased their average time to ejaculation during sex.
Other research has found that pelvic floor muscle exercises may help improve other sexual performance issues, such as erectile dysfunction.
Our detailed guide to kegel exercises lists techniques to train your pelvic floor muscles for better sexual function and performance.
As discussed in our guide to the causes of premature ejaculation, psychological issues such as anxiety or guilt about engaging in sexual behavior may contribute to PE.
If your premature ejaculation is related to a psychological issue, you may benefit from therapy and/or counseling.
Several different forms of therapy are used to treat premature ejaculation and other issues that can affect your sexual health, including sex therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Counseling and therapy are often combined with other treatments, such as medication, to help you overcome premature ejaculation and improve your sexual experience.
Research shows that a mix of psychotherapy and medication is often more effective at stopping premature ejaculation than medication alone.
Sometimes changing what you think about during sex can help delay orgasm so you can avoid ejaculating prematurely.
This method is often referred to as diversionary thinking. The theory is that by thinking about things other than sex, you’re less likely to reach the level of mental stimulation required to reach orgasm and ejaculate.
Common diversionary techniques include counting backwards from 100 or thinking about boring and unarousing subjects such as filing your taxes.
While some may find diversionary thinking to be helpful, there’s no scientific research on its effectiveness.
There’s also a downside in that it can reduce the pleasure of having sex by taking you out of the moment.
Premature ejaculation is often treated using medication. While there’s no medication approved specifically for premature ejaculation, several medications, including antidepressants, are often prescribed off-label to delay orgasm and ejaculation in men with PE.
If you have premature ejaculation and think medication may help you, it’s best to contact a healthcare provider to talk about your options.
We also offer a large selection of treatments for premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction online, including prescription medications available after a private consultation.
Research shows that antidepressants can help to slow ejaculation and prolong sex for men with ED.
In a 2007 study, men suffering from premature ejaculation were prescribed either paroxetine, fluoxetine or escitalopram.
All three of these drugs are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are usually used to treat depression and anxiety disorders.
The drugs were administered to study participants in the morning for four weeks.
At the end of the research period, the men treated with SSRIs showed improvements in sexual function and a reduction in premature ejaculation severity using a validated questionnaire.
Interestingly, there was no difference in results between the different drugs, suggesting that all three of the SSRIs used in the study could be effective in stopping premature ejaculation.
SSRIs require a valid prescription, meaning you’ll need to talk to a licensed healthcare provider to use this type of medication.
In some cases, SSRIs can cause side effects you should be aware of before beginning treatment.
We offer the medication sertraline for premature ejaculation online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.
You can find out more about how sertraline works, its effects and more in our guide to sertraline for premature ejaculation.
Some medications for erectile dysfunction, such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), may help prolong sex and reduce your risk of experiencing premature ejaculation.
A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Urology found that some men with premature ejaculation experienced larger improvements from sildenafil than they did from the SSRI paroxetine or the squeeze technique.
A small study also found that a mild daily dosage of tadalafil (Cialis®) produced a modest increase in intravaginal ejaculatory latency time in men with erectile dysfunction.
Although these study findings are promising, it’s important to understand that research into the effects of ED medications for premature ejaculation isn’t comprehensive right now.
Our guide to sildenafil for premature ejaculation goes into more detail about how common ED medications work, as well as potential effectiveness as treatments for PE.
Several topical treatments are available for premature ejaculation, including creams and sprays that contain anesthetics.
These medications are designed to be applied to the head of the penis and can change your penis’s level of sensitivity, allowing you to last longer during sex.
Common ingredients in topical creams, sprays and other medications for premature ejaculation include anesthetics such as lidocaine and prilocaine. Our Premature Ejaculation Spray contains lidocaine as its active ingredient.
Research shows that these topical anesthetics are effective. One study published in the journal Andrologia found that men who used a lidocaine-prilocaine treatment were able to have sex for longer before ejaculating than men who used a non-therapeutic placebo.
Another study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that men with PE who used a lidocaine spray before sex experienced a statistically significant improvement in time to ejaculation and sex frequency over the course of eight weeks.
In short, using the lidocaine spray not only reduced the severity of PE–it also resulted in more sexual encounters overall.
Finally, if you’re prone to premature ejaculation, you may benefit from using condoms designed to delay ejaculation.
These are often labeled as “stamina” or “extended pleasure” condoms. They tend to be slightly thicker than regular condoms and sometimes have a mild topical anesthetic applied to the side of the condom that comes into contact with your penis.
In addition to potentially slowing down ejaculation, using condoms provides an additional layer of protection against many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Premature ejaculation can be a frustrating, challenging issue that affects both your sex life and self-esteem.
Luckily, PE is a treatable issue. Through medication, behavioral therapy or a combination of the two, many men with PE are able to increase their ejaculatory latency and enjoy a more exciting, pleasurable sex life.
To get started treating PE, you can purchase our Premature Ejaculation Spray or consult with a licensed healthcare provider online about using sertraline.
Insider tips, early access and more.