- Does It Work?
Does the pull out method prevent pregnancy?
The pull out method—also called the withdrawal method or coitus interruptus—is when a reproductively fertile couple disengage before ejaculation occurs during sex. The purpose of this method is to stop sperm from entering the vagina to prevent pregnancy.
If you use the pull out method perfectly each time, it has about a 96% success rate. However, it is challenging to do it exactly right every time. So, in reality, it has about a 78% success rate. That means 22 out of 100 people who use the withdrawal method for 1 year will get pregnant.
What makes it so hard? The couple must have a very clear sense when ejaculation is about to happen, in order to separate successfully. They must also have the self-discipline to separate in time. It may be hard for some people to stop in the middle of a pleasurable moment, before climax.
Additionally, pre-ejaculate, a fluid that comes out of the penis before ejaculation, sometimes contains sperm. In this case, even if you do pull out successfully, a pregnancy can still occur.
Even though the pull out method is not as effective as other methods of contraception, it may still be a good option for some people. Using it is better than having no contraception at all.
Benefits of the pull out method
Some people like to use the withdrawal method for contraception because:
Tips for using the pull out method
If you are going to use the pull out method, there are some things you can do to make it more effective.
- Use a second method of contraception. For example, condoms or a cervical cap and the pull out method make each contraceptive choice even more effective.
- Have a dose of the morning after pill in case the withdrawal method fails. You can take it up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
- Track your menstrual cycle, if you are at risk of becoming pregnant. This will help you know when you are most likely to be ovulating. You can use a secondary contraceptive method during that time to prevent pregnancy, and the pull out method at other times when there's less risk of pregnancy.
- Practice pulling out while using a condom to make sure you can both count on separating before orgasm.
Other risks of the pull out method
In addition to having a higher risk of pregnancy than other contraceptive options, the pull out method does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Before using this method, both partners should know and communicate their STI status. Talk about it and discuss what STI risks you both have before deciding to use the pullout method. Condoms and other barriers like dental dams are more effective at preventing STIs.
Other contraceptive options to try
If you decide the pull out method is not for you, there are other, more effective options. These include:
- Intrauterine device (IUD). Your doctor implants a device in your uterus. Depending on the type you get, this can prevent pregnancy for 3-10 years. It is 99.2-99.9% effective.
- Implant. Your doctor implants a small rod into your arm. It releases pregnancy-preventing hormones for 3 years. It is 99.9% effective.
- Injection. Your doctor injects you with pregnancy-preventing hormones once every 3 months. The shot has a 96% success rate.
- The pill. The pill is a prescription medication that prevents pregnancy. There are several different options of hormonal combinations. The pill is 93% effective.
- The patch. You wear a hormone-releasing patch for 3 weeks. After the 3rd week, you take it off and have your period before putting on a new one. This is also 93% effective.
- The ring. This ring releases hormones to prevent pregnancy. You wear it in your vagina for 3 weeks. After the 3rd week, you remove it and menstruate. Then, you replace it with a new one. The ring has a 93% success rate.
- External condom. Also called a male condom, this is worn by someone with a penis to prevent pregnancy and STIs. Condoms have an 87% success rate.
- Internal condom. People with vaginas insert these condoms internally to prevent pregnancy and STIs. They are also called female condoms. These are used successfully 79% of the time.
- The calendar method. Using this method, a menstruating person tracks their cycle and avoids unprotected sex when they are most likely to be ovulating. The success of this method depends on several factors including the regularity of your cycle, how many fertile days you have each month, and whether you avoid unprotected sex. So, it has a success rate of 77%-98%.
- Lactational amenorrhea method. If you have given birth in the last 6 months, are fully breastfeeding, and haven't had your period since giving birth, you can have unprotected sex with a lower risk of pregnancy.
- Tubal ligation. Surgery to close the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy. This method is 99.5% effective.
- Vasectomy. A surgical procedure to close the vas deferens tubes to block sperm from leaving the testicles, preventing the ability to impregnate someone. Vasectomies are 99.85% effective.
Choosing the right birth control method
There are many factors that go into choosing the right birth control method. Talk to your primary care doctor or OB-GYN to discuss any health factors that go into choosing contraception. If you choose one method, and you experience side effects or you just don't like it, your doctor can help you find another method that will work better.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Birth Control Methods."
Mayo Clinic: "Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus)".
Michigan Health: "A Guide to Choosing the Right Birth Control for Your Lifestyle."
Nemours: "Can You Get Pregnant From Pre-Ejaculate?"
Planned Parenthood: "How effective is pulling out?"
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