Withdrawal (also known as pulling out) is the behavioral action where a man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates. This form of contraception is classified under natural birth control methods.
Withdrawal is not as reliable a method because a male ejects pre-ejaculate fluid while he is aroused and still inside the vagina – this fluid can contain at least 300,000 sperm (and it only takes 1 to fertilize an egg)! Plus, the withdrawal method relies on complete self-control. Finally, even if the man ejaculates outside of the vagina, sperm can swim, so semen anywhere near the vagina can still lead to pregnancy (this also means that you can still get pregnant even without penile penetration if a male ejaculates on or near the vagina).
Advantages of the Withdrawal Method:
- No medical or hormonal side effects
- Does not require a medical prescription
- Can be used to prevent pregnancy when no other method is available
- Allows for sexual spontaneity
Disadvantages of Withdrawal:
- Not for men who ejaculate prematurely
- Requires experience, trust, and a high level of self-control
- Not recommended for sexually inexperienced men or for teenagers
- Not a reliable method for men who do not know when it's time to pull out
Withdrawal is 82% to 96% effective. This means that with perfect use, 4 out of every 100 women who use withdrawal will become pregnant in one year. With typical use, 18 out of every 100 women who use withdrawal will become pregnant in one year.
Withdrawal offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
New Research on Withdrawal:
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. She found the effectiveness rates of withdrawal to be very similar to the perfect and typical-user rates for the male condom, which are 2% and 15%, respectively.
Additionally, 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.
Jones, R. K., Fennell, J., Higgins, J. A., & Blanchard, K. (2009). "Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal." Contraception 79, 407–410. Accessed via private subscription.