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Home / Contraception / Is the pull-out method effective?

Is the pull-out method effective?

Learn about the risks of pulling out

The pull-out method, or the pulling-out method, is a popular method of contraception. It is sometimes also called the withdrawal method or more formally "coitus interruptus".

While popular, it is not a risk-free method and can lead to unexpected pregnancies.

Condom wrappers shaped in the form of an ‘x’ on a blue background.

We’re going to discuss the method, the risks, and whether you should use the pull-out method.

What is the pull-out method?

The pull-out method or the pulling-out method is a type of contraception. It involves pulling out the penis before ejaculation. This aims to prevent any semen from getting into the vagina and causing pregnancy.

People choose to pull out because they don’t want to use barrier contraception. But at the same time, they don’t want to ejaculate into the vagina and risk pregnancy.

However, this method is unreliable and is a common cause of unintended pregnancy.

How effective is the pull-out method?

Withdrawal can be 96% effective if done perfectly every time. However, not many people do it correctly as the method requires some technique.

It requires pulling out before ejaculation perfectly every time for it to be this effective. This means not getting any pre-cum or cum into the vagina or vulva. It also requires the self-control to stop and pull out before finishing.

The perfect time to pull out will not be the same for everyone. It usually occurs before or during orgasm, but ejaculation may happen at different times for everyone. So, the technique requires some mastery.

22 out of 100 women will get pregnant using the pull-out method.

In reality, pulling out is more like 78% effective. That means 22 in every 100 women will get pregnant using the pull-out method.

Does the pull-out method work when not ovulating?

You can still get pregnant, even when you're not ovulating.

Semen can live in your vagina for 7 days. If you ovulate within that timeframe, you could still get pregnant.

You will need to pay close attention to your ovulation cycle if you want to avoid pregnancy this way.

How safe is the pull-out method?

As well as not being very effective, withdrawal may not be safe for some people. This is especially true for people who have multiple sexual partners.

Pulling out puts you at a greater risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). STIs can be spread through bodily fluids and skin-to-skin contact.

The only way you can lower the risk of STIs is to use a condom.

How can I do the pull-out method safely?

Withdrawal is not the recommended contraceptive method by healthcare professionals. But, if want to do it, you should learn how to do it effectively.

1. Practice

Knowing how your body reacts is the key to pulling out correctly. Masturbation is a good way to learn when you ejaculate so you can pull out in time. You can also practice with your partner wearing a condom to avoid any unnecessary risk of pregnancy.

2. Use additional contraception

You can use the pull-out method alongside other forms of contraception.

IUD, contraceptive pill and condom on light pink background

Women can use long-form contraceptives that don’t interact with the sensation, such as:

These methods are all around 97-99% effective when used correctly. So, you can use both methods and you will be protected against pregnancy.

3. Use emergency contraception

Accidents happen from time to time. When they do, you can use emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, works by preventing ovulation. It is 95-98% effective when used correctly.

Emergency contraception blister pack on yellow background.

There are two pills available: Levonelle and ellaOne. They differ in how long they are effective. If you use Levonelle, you must take it within 3 days of unprotected sex. ellaOne, however, must be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex.

It is good to have on hand, regardless of the type of contraception you use. However, you shouldn’t rely on it.

If you have to use emergency contraception regularly you should consider a different form of regular contraception.

Main takeaways

The pull-out method is not the most effective form of birth control because it requires some technique. It can be effective with other methods of contraception and with some practice.

However, it does not protect you against STIs. The only way to protect yourself from STIs is to use a condom.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Plauto Filho Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 11-10-2023
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