More technically known as the withdrawal method or coitus interruptus, the pull out method is a form of birth control. You don’t have to buy anything, and there aren’t any pills. It does require some self-control and, perhaps more importantly, trust.
In short, during intercourse, the man removes his penis from the vagina before ejaculation. The majority of sperm are transported with ejaculation, so in theory, withdrawing should lower the chances of pregnancy. In practice, it’s difficult and has a number of downsides, not least a vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections.
The withdrawal method:
What is the PullOut Method?
This technique is one of the most straightforward birth control methods. Before the moment of his climax, the man removes his penis and ejaculates outside the vagina.
Withdrawal is considered a natural or traditional form of birth control. It’s also a non-hormonal form of birth control, which is practiced all over the world.
The pull out method is often used when another form of contraception isn’t available, or there is some cultural objection to birth control methods.
How Effective Is Pulling Out?
Withdrawal is as simple and basic as it comes, and best of all, it’s free. Unfortunately, it’s not super effective to prevent pregnancy.
When medical professionals talk about the effectiveness of different forms of contraception, they may speak about ideal use and typical use. Ideal use means the way it theoretically should be done, without any mistakes.
Typical use is the real-world use, often less than ideal. This is particularly relevant to the pull out method, relying as it does on one partner’s ability to pull out at the right moment .
If you were to use the pull out method perfectly as your primary method of birth control, it would fail to prevent pregnancy 4% of the time . On the other hand, in a one-year term, typical use of the pull out method will result in pregnancy 20% of the time. Compare that to the effectiveness of condoms, which can be as much as 90% effective.
The wide difference between ideal and practical use indicates the difficulty of using the withdrawal method. Additionally, the sperm content of pre-ejaculate means that even when performed perfectly, pregnancy is still possible .
How Often Does Pregnancy from Pulling Out Occur?
When having sex without any form of contraception, an unplanned pregnancy will result about 85% of the time. The 20% failure rate of the pull out method isn’t so bad by comparison. However, that still may be gambling with higher stakes than most people are comfortable with.
A big portion of the failure rate is due to contraceptive failure when the man was unsuccessful in pulling out at the right moment. If the man has a harder time with that aspect, the chances might increase by a lot.
Despite being used so often, the withdrawal method isn’t considered a reliable way to avoid pregnancy.
It might also be worth noting that one potential advantage, greater sexual pleasure, may not actually result from the pull out method . When surveyed, women generally preferred to use a condom. Some men preferred the withdrawal method, but others did not.
How Effective is Pulling Out and Birth Control?
The withdrawal method is commonly used with other birth control methods. That can mean a couple of different things.
First, it might mean that you use the withdrawal method with a second method of contraception at the same time for extra protection. One common combination is withdrawal and the fertility awareness method, in which the woman’s fertility is tracked.
Alternatively, many people use another method of contraception when they can but fall back on the pull out method when there isn’t anything else available. Most people know how to get birth control, but they may not want to ruin the moment. Otherwise, they use other contraceptive methods, such as condoms or the pill .
It’s difficult to judge the effectiveness of using a combination of contraceptive strategies involving withdrawal. The risk of pregnancy is probably lower than using withdrawal by itself, but without some statistics, it’s difficult to judge.
Pull Out Methods Pros and Cons
While withdrawal isn’t as reliable a method of contraception as some, it does have a few advantages.
How To Pull Out Correctly
Learning how to pull out in time is a skill, and it can be developed like one. Once you know what you’re doing, it is a lot easier.
One key component is accurately gauging how close the climax is, so you can pull out in time at the right moment. That may just require some experimentation until you learn what that feels like. Otherwise, there are a few tips that can make pulling out more effective.
This means picking a moment to pull out consistently. Once you’re familiar with your own progression of arousal, find a moment that is the right one for you to pull out. Focus on finding that moment and pulling out every time.
Urinate Before Sex
Most sexually active men have experienced this at one point or another. The feeling of pressure that indicates a need to urinate can feel very similar to the build-up to climax. Urinating first means there won’t be any confusion and mistiming as a result.
Ejaculate Away from the Vagina
The thing is, evolutionarily sex is meant as a way to make babies, whatever other meaning it has gained. As a result, both a man’s and a woman’s body do their best to make sure that is what happens. While sperm normally can’t survive outside the body, it’s not unknown for pregnancy to be caused by ejaculation landing on the vaginal opening.
Just make sure that you move your penis away vagina before ejaculating, and it shouldn’t be a problem.
Use an Ovulation Calculator
While unprotected sex can result in pregnancy at any point, a woman may be more likely to conceive at certain points of her cycle. The fertile window, as it’s called, are the few days leading up to and including the day of ovulation.
An ovulation calculator is a form of the fertility awareness method. Using one, you can track a woman’s fertility. Alternatively, outercourse is another method of contraception that can be used on fertile days.
Do you think an ovulation calculator is effective at preventing pregnancy?
Use Other Forms of Birth Control
While there is a chance of pregnancy even if the male partner pulls out, that can be reduced by using other methods of birth control. We’ve already mentioned the fertility awareness method, but other options include:
- A birth control sponge.
- A cervical cap.
Ensure Both Partners are STD-Free
The withdrawal does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases in any meaningful way. There are much better ways of producing your sexual and reproductive health. While kids might not be part of the plan in the short term, if you want to have that choice open to you down the line, your reproductive health should remain a priority.
What To Do If the Pull Out Method Fails
As withdrawal is one of the least reliable contraceptive methods, it’s not unusual for it to fail. When it does happen, there are a couple of birth control options available to reduce the chances of pregnancy.
There are two types of emergency birth control that are usually used .
The first is the morning after pill, usually a medication called levonorgestrel . It’s a single pill that can be used up to 72 hours following unprotected sex. It’s more popular, but can result in:
- Other side effects.
The second type of emergency contraception is a copper IUD. It’s not hormonal and generally has few side effects. It also can be used up to five days after unprotected sexual activity. However, it has to be inserted by a doctor and is considered less convenient.
Can I Get Pregnant Even if He Pulls Out?
Yes. There is a small amount of sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid, so it’s possible to become pregnant even if the male partner withdraws in time.
How Does the Pull Out Method Fail?
The pull out method usually fails to prevent pregnancy in one of two ways. The first is the result of sperm in pre-ejaculate fertilizing an egg. The second occurs when the withdrawal is mistimed.
What Are the Chances of Getting Pregnant During Ovulation Using the Pull Out Method?
It’s difficult to judge the risk, as there are a variety of factors at play. The failure rate of the pull out method is about 20%. However, the chances of getting pregnant rise dramatically during ovulation.
Withdrawal may not be terribly reliable, but it is much more effective than no birth control method at all. To most doctors, a good birth control method also provides some protection against sexually transmitted diseases, which the pull out method definitely does not.
As a result, it’s important to be careful when using the withdrawal method. It may be best used with someone you know to be free of STDs.
- Posted under Health Guides. Updated 7 February 2020. +Related Content. “Contraception: Success and Failure Rates of Contraceptives.” Center for Young Women’s Health, 7 Feb. 2020, youngwomenshealth.org/2009/11/03/success-and-failure-rates-of-contraceptives/.
- Gynecology, Department of Obstetrics &. “Use of Withdrawal and Unintended Pregnancy Among Females… : Obstetrics & Gynecology.” LWW, Sept. 2013, journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2013/09000/Use_of_Withdrawal_and_Unintended_Pregnancy_Among.16.aspx.
- Killick, Stephen R, et al. “Sperm Content of Pre-Ejaculatory Fluid.” Human Fertility (Cambridge, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3564677/?_escaped_fragment_=po.
- Tadayon, Mitra, et al. “The Relationship of Male Condoms and Withdrawal Contraceptive Methods with Female Sexual Function and Satisfaction: a Cross Sectional Study.” International Journal of Reproduction, Conception, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1 July 2016, ma-rc.ajums.ac.ir/_ma-rc/documents/%D9%85%D9%82%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AA/94/The%20relationship%20of%20male%20condoms%20and%20withdrawal%20contraceptive.pdf.
- Nguyen, Nghia, et al. “Correlates of Use of Withdrawal for Contraception among Women in Vietnam.” BMC Women’s Health, BioMed Central, 29 Apr. 2020, bmcwomenshealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12905-020-00957-z.
- Gemzell-Danielsson, Kristina, et al. “Emergency Contraception.” Taylor & Francis, 25 Feb. 2013, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09513590.2013.774591.
- “Levonorgestrel: MedlinePlus Drug Information.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a610021.html.
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