Pull Out Method (Withdrawal)

What Is the Pull-Out Method?

The pull-out method is a form of birth control in which a man takes his penis out of a woman's vagina before he ejaculates so fewer sperm get inside. It’s also known as coitus interruptus or the withdrawal method.

How Does the Pull-Out Method Work?

It isn’t as easy as it sounds. The man needs a lot of control to time it right. It doesn't work if he can't feel when he's close to orgasm or if he’s so caught up in the moment that he doesn't pull out in time.

The best ways to use the pull-out method

Here are some tips to make it work better:

  • Use it along with another type of birth control, like a condom or the pill.
  • Use a spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm.
  • Don't rely on withdrawal alone on the days when the woman is most likely to get pregnant. You can keep track of which days are safest with an ovulation calendar.
  • Have the man pee before sex to clear out any sperm that may have gotten an early start.
  • Be consistent. Do it every time you have sex.
  • When the man ejaculates, make sure none of the fluid gets on the woman’s upper thighs or groin. Sperm on your skin can work its way inside your vagina.

Pull-Out Method Effectiveness

Pulling out isn’t a very reliable way to prevent pregnancy. It works about 78% of the time, which means that over a year of using this method, 22 out of 100 women -- about 1 in 5 -- would get pregnant. By comparison, male condoms are 98% effective when used correctly every time.

Can you get pregnant if your partner pulls out?

Yes, you can. But the pull-out method may work better than doing nothing.

Does the pull-out method prevent STDs?

No, it doesn’t. You can still get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, or syphilis while using this method.

Benefits of the Pull-Out Method

Couples may choose this method if they wouldn’t mind a surprise pregnancy or because:

  • They don’t want to use other types of birth control for religious or philosophical reasons.
  • They need some kind of birth control right away, and it’s too late to use other methods.
  • They don’t have sex very often.
  • It's free and convenient.
  • It doesn’t involve any hormones or other chemicals.
  • It has no side effects or health risks.
  • You don't need to see a doctor or get a prescription.

Continued

Disadvantages of the Pull-Out Method

Not only is it not very effective, withdrawal isn’t a good method of birth control because:

  • It takes a lot of control for the man to pull out before ejaculation.
  • The woman has no control over it at all.
  • You may feel that it gets in the way of sexual pleasure.
  • Even if he pees before sex, the man can still release fluid before he ejaculates. This pre-ejaculate does contain sperm.

What Should You Do if the Pull-Out Method Fails?

If you’re worried that you or your partner could be pregnant, talk to your doctor about emergency contraception.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 24, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Bedsider: "5 myths about pulling out, busted."

CDC: "Contraception."

Feminist Women's Health Center: "Withdrawal ('Pulling Out')."

Planned Parenthood: "Withdrawal (Pull-Out Method)."

Trussell, J. Contraception, May 2011.

Center for Young Women’s Health: “Contraception: Pros and Cons of Different Contraceptive Methods.”

Journal of the British Fertility Society: “Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid.”

Mayo Clinic: “Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus).”

Contraception: “Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal.”

CDC: “Contraceptive Guidance for Health Care Providers: Coitus Interruptus (Withdrawal).”

SexInfo Online: “Withdrawal.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination