1. Health
Dawn Stacey M.Ed, LMHC

Say What? Withdrawal is as effective as Condoms?

By May 29, 2009

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The withdrawal method, more commonly called “pulling out”, is sometimes referred to as the birth control method that is better than doing nothing. Yet, according to a new paper published in the Contraception journal, based on the evidence, withdrawal might more aptly be known as a method that is almost as effective as the male condom.

Rachel Jones of the Guttmacher Institute analyzed evidence from several studies and came to the conclusion that withdrawal is actually nearly as effective as condoms in preventing pregnancy. Her paper explains that couples who practice withdrawal perfectly over the course of a year (meaning the male partner always pulls out before ejaculation) only have a 4% pregnancy rate. More "typical" couples using withdrawal (those who sometimes mess up) experience pregnancy rates of 18%. Believe it or not, these numbers are very similar to the perfect and typical-user rates for the male condom, which are 2% and 15%, respectively.

The Kinsey Institute surveyed 18 - 30 year old women and found that about 21% use withdrawal regularly, typically combining it with another method -- like using condoms during their more fertile days. And what about sharing this information woth teens – who have been constantly told that “pulling out” is like playing roulette? Well Rachel Jones, cautions, "We're constantly told by people in positions of authority that [withdrawal] is not effective. But it does substantially reduce the risk of pregnancy. And that's why it should be part of sex-education classes." Youth advocates claim that although promoting withdrawal among teens may be a slippery slope, teenagers should armed with the knowledge that withdrawal can actually be effective (if done correctly) and be encouraged to practice withdrawal in certain situations - like if they don't have a condom. And for mature adults, who are more likely to be able to have the self-control to pull out in time, in a time of economic recession, withdrawal is free!

Photo reprinted with permission from P. Haines

June 4, 2009 at 9:16 am
(1) Ted Murphy says:

I wonder also about instances where a couple have sex multiple times in the same night. Withdrawal might be less effective then.

June 12, 2009 at 3:21 pm
(2) Louise says:

My husband and I have used withdrawal for years without a problem. I personally believe this study. I think the risk has been overstated because there is a reluctance to recommend it to teens, who have far less self-control and are less likely to pull out in time.

July 15, 2013 at 4:27 am
(3) Paul says:

My GF and I solely rely on the withdrawal method as it works very well for us. Not once have we had any pregnancy scares since becoming a couple. We much prefer this contraceptive method as it’s 100% natural compared to using control which gives her side effects and condoms which dry up her natural vaginal lubrication which make her feel sore. So long as the male has good control and urinates in between ejaculations, then no leftover sperm is found in precum as the urethra is clear. This greatly improves the success rate of using the withdrawal method.

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