The pull-out method (also known as “withdrawal” or “coitus interruptus”) involves the one with the penis to pull-out before he ejaculates. Health professionals do consider this a true method of birth control. Did you know that if the pull-out method is done correctly every time, it is almost as effective as using condoms to prevent pregnancy? However, it has to be done correctly every single time. Because of this, withdrawal is not the right birth control option for everyone.
We do not recommend relying on the pull-out method if you are not in a committed long-term relationship, are unaware of your and your partner’s STI status, do not keep tract of fertility cycles, and are not experienced in controlling your orgasms. That’s a lot of stipulations to think about!
Here is Bedsider on the frank facts about pulling-out:
- It can be easy to make mistakes using the pull-out method which is why, out of 100 couples using withdrawal, approximately 22 will become pregnant in a year.
- Pulling-out is common, but that stats on it are questionable because there hasn’t been much research done and people tend not to admit that they rely on this form of birth control. Bedsider cites a study that found that 60% of women age 15-44 have used withdrawal.
- Aside from being a less effective form of birth control, the pull-out method comes with benefits, such as no hormones, no costs or prescriptions, etc.
- Withdrawal does not prevent the transmission of STIs and HIV.
- We know that there is less sperm in pre-ejaculation. However, there is little known about the risk of pregnancy from precum. So the best approach is to be prepared that it might.
- Read the article to learn how to use withdrawal like a pro. It takes practice, communication and back-up plans.
This article by Yvonne Piper originally appeared on Bedsider.
BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org
Before he busts a nut, allow us to bust these withdrawal myths. (Sorry, we can’t resist puns.)
The withdrawal method, a.k.a. pulling out, sometimes gets a bad rap—some people don’t even consider it a “real” method of birth control, even though 60% of couples have used it at least once. Because pulling out is often dismissed as “better than nothing” by researchers, we don’t know as much about it as we do about some other methods. But before you write it off, make sure you’ve got your facts straight.
Myth 1: Pulling out doesn’t work, so don’t even bother.
Out of 100 couples who were withdrawal rock stars—meaning they pulled out correctly every time they had sex—about four of them would get pregnant in a year. But it can be a challenge to pull out for lots of reasons, and most people have days when they’re not feeling like rock stars of any kind. That’s why out of 100 average couples using withdrawal, 22 will get pregnant in a year.
It’s not that pulling out doesn’t work in principle—it’s that it’s challenging to pull out just right every single time. Condoms and the pill aren’t so different that way—they’re great in a world where we always use them perfectly—but the reality of our lives is often busy, complicated, and not so perfect. Still, pulling out is a lot better than nothing—in fact, it’s nearly as effective at preventing accidental pregnancy as condoms alone.
Myth 2: Pre-cum is safe—it doesn’t have sperm in it.
First off, we have very limited scientific information about pre-cum so there can be confusion about it even among experts. Three small studies from years ago found no sperm in pre-cum, but there were only 43 guys in all of these studies combined. Some of the men in the studies had health problems, and it appears that the pre-cum samples they provided were not analyzed immediately so it may have been it difficult to tell if their sperm were swimming normally.
A more recent study had 27 healthy guys, some of whom gave multiple samples of pre-cum. The researchers analyzed the samples immediately and found that about a third contained live, swimming sperm. Popular advice says that sperm found in pre-cum may come from a previous ejaculation and can be flushed out when a guy pees, but the guys in this study who had peed after their last ejaculation still had sperm in their pre-cum. The bottom line is that this study can’t tell us whether pre-cum can cause a pregnancy, but it does tell us that it might. It also suggests that pulling out may work better for some guys than others—but unless you have a pre-cum sample and awesome microscope skills, you can’t tell which group a guy is in. This may be part of why even withdrawal rock stars sometimes have accidental pregnancies.
Myth 3: Only irresponsible people use the “pull out” method.
Sixty percent of women ages 15-44 in the U.S. have used withdrawal at some point. In the most recent U.S. national survey, 5% of couples using any type of birth control were relying exclusively on pulling out. If you count couples using another method plus pulling out, about 10% of people use withdrawal. Because people sometimes don’t consider pulling out a method, they may not mention it when asked about birth control use, so even this number may be low. In other words, people of all ages in all types of relationships are using withdrawal to prevent pregnancy.
Myth 4: There’s nothing good about pulling out.
Pulling out may not be the most effective method, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have perks. No hormones, no cost, no advance preparation, no prescription, no visit to the store or clinic, can be used spontaneously, great option when you don’t have another plan… people have all kinds of reasons for using it. For women who have struggled with vaginal infections like bacterial vaginosis, pulling out may also help prevent recurrent infections.
Myth 5: Pulling out is easy.
It takes practice, learning, communication, and back-up plans to use withdrawal like a pro:
- Do some withdrawal dress rehearsals while your guy is wearing a condom. Does he know when he’s about to cum? Can he pull out in time? If not, consider another method.
- Know your STI status, and make sure your guy knows his. Withdrawal can work for pregnancy prevention, but it does not offer protection against STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
- Communicate! Talk about what the plan is in the event of an accident, an accidental pregnancy, or an STI.
- Have back up supplies. Keep emergency contraception around for those times when accidents happen, and condoms for times when pulling out doesn’t seem like the right choice for a particular guy.
- Know your cycles. If you have a smart phone, check out some of the apps that help you track your fertile times. Consider using condoms in addition to pulling out during high fertility days of the month.
If effectiveness is your #1 priority, withdrawal might not be right for you—maybe not right now, maybe not ever. But a lot of your sisters are out there doin’ it for themselves, and not everybody hates it or gets pregnant on it. Is it perfect? Nope. But it is an option that you can use any time, anywhere.
BEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
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