Withdrawal method (also referred to as coitus interruptus or pulling out) is a technique that involves the pulling out of the penis out of the vagina just before ejaculation.

It is used during sex to decrease the chances of getting pregnant. This type of contraception is regarded as a natural method of birth control.

How reliable is the withdrawal method?

The withdrawal method is not a completely safe birth control practice, and this is due to a couple of reasons.

During the process of sex, pre-ejaculate fluids are ejected from the male organ. Though this pre-cum contains a small amount of sperm (at least 300,000 of them), it is still enough to fertilise an egg especially if you’re ovulating – and it only takes one of these sperms to do the job.

Secondly, being able to pull out in the heat of the moment requires a man to have self-control and accurate timing. This is quite harder than it sounds.

Finally, even if he’s able to pull out prior to ejaculation, the sperm is a great swimmer. So even though it’s rare, semen that lands anywhere outside the vagina can still lead to pregnancy.

Using the withdrawal method correctly

To use this technique successfully, one has to exhibit excellent self-control and a good sense of timing. Men must be able to estimate the time during intercourse when they can no longer delay or stop ejaculation.

Being able to predict the point of orgasm accurately is required in order to pull out before you ejaculate. But being able to withdraw beforehand won’t guarantee that your partner will not get pregnant.

When the pull-out method is not backed up by other forms of contraceptives, it is important to note that pregnancy can still occur even if your partner withdraws in time as semen or pre-ejaculate fluids that contain little amount of sperm cell is spilt on the outside opening of the vagina.

The withdrawal method may slightly decrease your chances of getting pregnant but won’t protect you from diseases and STIs, so it’s advice to supplement the technique with condom use.

Advantages of the pull-out method

Using the pull-out method as a form of birth control has some benefits such as;

  • The withdrawal method can always be used when there is no other form of contraception available.
  • It’s safe and convenient and easy to use.
  • It has no hormonal or medical side effects.
  • The withdrawal method allows for sexual spontaneity.
  • This method doesn’t require a medical prescription.
  • Withdrawal is very pocket-friendly as it is free.
  • It can be a reliable birth control method when there is trust between partners and you have self-control and a lot of experience.
  • Can be a very effective form of contraceptive when used alongside other forms of birth control.

Disadvantages of the pull-out method

Using the pulling out method as your only form of birth control may pose some significant disadvantages including;

  • This method is not an excellent option for men who experience premature ejaculation.
  • This method requires a very high level of experience and self-control.
  • It is not recommended for teens and sexually inexperienced men as they might not be able to use the pulling out method correctly.
  • This method is not a reliable option for men who do not understand the sexual responses of their body. You must be fully aware and be able to predict when ejaculation can no longer be postponed or stopped.
  • This method doesn’t offer any form of protection against diseases or STIs.

How effective is the withdrawal method?

The effectiveness of the pull-out method is 82% to 96%. That is, when done correctly, the risk of getting pregnant is around 4% (which means 4 out of a 100 women whose partners perform the withdrawal method precisely every time will still get pregnant).

While for couples who don’t perform this technique correctly, which is more common, around 18% to 27% will get pregnant (about 18 to 27 out of 100 persons using this method will still get pregnant in one year).

What research reveals?

The pulling-out method (withdrawal) is often referred to as the birth control method that is better than doing nothing at all. But in a 2009 article published in the Contraception Journal recommends that the withdrawal technique should be regarded as the technique that is almost as effective as the male condom.

The researchers of this article examined the results of different studies. They concluded that when it comes to pregnancy prevention, pulling out is almost as effective as condoms.

The effectiveness of the withdrawal method and that of the male condom when used effectively and typically appears to be similar, which are 2% (for effective usage) and 18% (for normal usage).

The article also mentioned that the use of the pull out method might be underestimated. This is because most women might combine the technique with other forms of birth control.

  • 5% of women said that they use the withdrawal technique with natural family planning methods.
  • 19% reported that they use a hormonal contraceptive method with the withdrawal technique.
  • 31% of women claim that they use condoms alongside withdrawal.

It appears that 21% of women within the ages of 18 and 30 use the pulling out method on a regular basis. Very few women reported using either withdrawal or condoms alone.

Sixty-eight percent of withdrawal users claimed to have used male condoms in the last month, and 42% of condom users also claimed that they were using the withdrawal technique.

It seems that women may be more likely to combine the withdrawal method with other forms of birth control — like using condoms during their ovulation days.

The researchers of the article concluded that the pulling out method might be a more effective backup method for couples — especially those who have difficulty in using other birth control techniques… such as women who forget to take contraceptive pills regularly, and couples who don’t fancy condom use.

Because of this, the researchers recommend that people become more informed about the withdrawal method. Even though the pull out method may not be highly effective as other birth control methods, it is still substantially better than using no contraception at all.

The bottom line

If your aim is not to get pregnant, using additional birth control methods like birth control pills (oral contraceptives), condoms, Depo-Provera injections, hormonal patches, intrauterine device (IUD), or spermicidal foams are all options that can be used to support the withdrawal method.

If you are worried about protection from STIs, you should consider using condoms, as they offer the highest level of protection for adults who are sexually active. Be sure to seek advice from your local health department or doctor on the method that is best for you.