The ins and outs of the withdrawal method of birth control
Hypothetically, you’re in your bedroom enjoying a little sexual pleasure in the form of some mild skin-to-skin contact. Things are getting heated, and the next thing you know, your sexual partner’s condom-free penis is inside your vagina. He’s on the verge of ejaculation.
Do you allow him to continue the romp knowing you currently aren’t using any form of birth control? You don’t want to kill the vibe, and you know you can resort to emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy later. Or do you take control of the situation and initiate the pull-out method, also known as the withdrawal method? Sure, it may be messy if you don’t have a box of tissues nearby, but it may be your best shot to avoid pregnancy.
There’s no wrong answer here. But, for the purpose of choosing the pull-out method in the unexpected bedroom romp scenario, we want to make sure you’re armed with the facts of the pull-out method of birth control. The state of your reproductive health is counting on it!
What is the pull-out method?
The pull-out method, also known as coitus interruptus, is a form of birth control that involves a male sexual partner removing their penis from their partner’s vagina prior to ejaculation. The aim is to prevent unwanted pregnancy by not allowing sperm to enter the vagina and reach an egg for implantation.
According to Planned Parenthood, the pull-out method is less effective than some other types of birth control but is better than not using anything at all.
Who should use the pull-out method?
The pull-out method may be suitable for couples who:
- are motivated to practice this method effectively
- need immediate birth control
- have engaged in sex without other birth control methods available
- need a temporary method while waiting on another method
- have sex infrequently
- have religious reasons for not using other methods of contraception
How effective is the pull-out method when done correctly?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the pull-out method is about as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy. The perfect-use failure rate for the withdrawal method is 4% compared to 2% for condoms. Ans we’ve done the maths. That means 18% of couples who rely on pulling out as a birth control method will experience a pregnancy, comparable to the 17% of couples using condoms.
Can I still get pregnant using the pull-out method?
Yes. You can get pregnant with the pull-out method.
So, why isn’t the pull-out method a guaranteed method to prevent pregnancy?
For starters, we need to allow for human error. And we don’t mean that in a negative way. We just mean that when your partner is amidst the mind-blowing euphoria that is sexual intercourse, it can be hard to remember to withdraw the penis. In all honesty, removing their penis is probably the last thing on your partner’s mind when they’re on the verge of ejaculation.
Secondly, there’s this beautiful bodily fluid known as pre-cum. This is the clear pre-ejaculatory fluid released by the penis during sexual arousal. Typically pre-cum doesn’t contain sperm; however, leftover sperm cells from a recent ejaculation have been known to linger in the urethra. If lingering sperm cells mix with the pre-cum, it’s a potential pregnancy waiting to happen. Even if your partner perfects the timing of the pull-out method, a small amount of fluid can still cause a pregnancy.
Does the pull-out method protect from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
There’s no sugar-coating this one. The pull-out method is a form of unprotected sex that does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. When using the pull-out method as your primary method of birth control, it’s wise to use a backup form of birth control, like a condom, for extra protection against STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
Did you know female condoms are an effective alternative to male condoms if you’re the kind of girl who likes to take control of contraception?
How can you practice the pull-out method more effectively?
To achieve maximum efficacy of the pull-out method, it’s up to your sexual partner to execute the pull-out method perfectly.
That means your partner has to withdraw their penis from your vagina before they’re about to ejaculate and ensure they empty their load away from the genitals every time.
There are also precautions that can reduce the risk of pregnancy when using the pull-out method, such as making sure the penis is clear of any residual semen by asking your man to urinate and clean the tip of the penis before engaging in sexual activity.
And, if you really want to go the extra mile to prevent pregnancy, you can try to avoid sex during your fertile window (wait a second – what is the fertile window?).
What to do if your partner doesn’t pull out in time?
Accidents happen, and we get it can be hard to practice self-control during a steamy sex session. So what are your options to avoid unplanned pregnancy when your partner pulls out too late and ejaculation occurs when his penis is still inside your vagina?
First of all, it’s important to note that if your partner is failing to pull out on time due to premature ejaculation issues, the withdrawal method may not be the safest birth control method for you.
Premature ejaculation is a common male sexual health condition, and it is treatable. Our friends at Stagger provide an invaluable service for men who experience sexual health issues like premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction (an inability to get and stay hard during sexual activity). It may be worth starting a conversation if your man needs a little extra support in getting his sexual health issues sorted.
If your partner misses the cue to pull out in time due to being caught up in the moment, emergency contraception is a solid birth control option. The morning after pill can be effective at preventing pregnancy when taken up to five days after intercourse, depending on the type of morning after pill you take.
The best part is that we can help with same-day emergency contraception delivery for those times when you cannot be bothered leaving the house or dealing with the whole pharmacy fandango. Keep in mind emergency contraception isn’t designed for continued use and should be reserved exclusively for unexpected situations.
What other birth control methods are there?
An increase in reproductive rights has seen the variety of birth control options evolve and grow over time. And, thank goodness, because we know a girl loves having options to prevent pregnancy and protect her lady parts (you know, from things like genital warts).
A reminder that it’s always best to consult with your trusted healthcare provider for other forms of birth control suitable for your situation. Depending on existing health conditions and personal preferences, other methods of birth control include:
The combined pill
Combined birth control pills are once-a-day pills available with a prescription from your healthcare provider. Birth control pills release two synthetic hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, that stop ovulation and thicken the cervical mucus to make it hard for sperm to connect with an egg.
The mini pill
The mini pill contains a synthetic form of progesterone that thickens the cervical mucus to stop sperm from swimming through to implant an egg.
The vaginal ring
The vaginal ring is a one-size-fits-all ring that’s inserted into the vagina for three weeks before being removed for one week during your period. The vaginal ring works similarly to the combined pill in that it enables a slow release of oestrogen and progesterone into the bloodstream.
Contraceptive intrauterine devices (IUDs)
A contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that is placed in the uterus to stop sperm from reaching and fertilising an egg. IUDs are a long-acting reversible method of contraception that can provide safe and effective protection for many years.
A contraceptive implant is a small, plastic rod that is inserted under the skin of the upper arm, where it slowly releases a low dose of progesterone to stop the ovaries from releasing an egg each month.
Contraceptive implants are another long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) available in Australia, providing birth control for up to three years before removal is required.
Male condoms are a form of barrier protection that works by stopping sperm from entering the vagina.
Female condoms are a form of barrier protection inserted into the vagina to prevent sperm from entering.
Find out more about how the female condom works.
The diaphragm is a soft, silicone done that fits inside the vagina as another form of barrier birth control. It covers the opening to the uterus, preventing sperm from swimming through to fertilise an egg.
Still unsure about the right birth control for you? For hassle-free contraception management, start the convo with a Youly doctor today.
Jones, Rachel K et al. “Pull and pray or extra protection? Contraceptive strategies involving withdrawal among US adult women.” Contraception vol. 90,4 (2014): 416-21. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2014.04.016
Kost, Kathryn et al. “Estimates of contraceptive failure from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.” Contraception vol. 77,1 (2008): 10-21. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2007.09.013
Bahamondes, Luis et al. “Long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARCs) methods.” Best practice & research. Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology vol. 66 (2020): 28-40. doi:10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2019.12.002
Liddon, Nicole et al. “Withdrawal as pregnancy prevention and associated risk factors among US high school students: findings from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.” Contraception vol. 93,2 (2016): 126-32. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2015.08.015
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coitus interruptus (withdrawal). https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/mmwr/mec/appendixh.html. Accessed March 7, 2022.