It’s also known as the 'pull-out method' or 'coitus interruptus'. You may also have heard other names for it.
Simple to do, stop at any time, and easily reversible, no health care provider needed, no prescriptions and no side effects. Free.
Of all the birth control methods, it is the worst at preventing pregnancy. Couples practising the withdrawal method have the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy (see success rates).
- No protection against STDs
- Very tricky in practise – requires men to be aware of when to pull out
- Is not for men who don’t know when to pull out
- Is not recommended for men who are sexually inexperienced
- Is not recommended for men who ejaculate prematurely
How does withdrawal prevent pregnancy?
Withdrawal prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina.
How often do I have to use the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy?
For it to prevent pregnancy, you and your partner need to practise it every time you have sexual intercourse.
How effective is withdrawal against preventing pregnancy?
- Based on typical withdrawal use, 27 out of 100 women become pregnant when using the withdrawal method with their partner. Typical use means couples who don’t always use the withdrawal method correctly, whereby sperm enters into the vagina.
- Based on perfect withdrawal use, where couples always withdraw correctly, 4 out every 100 women will become pregnant.
You can make the withdrawal method more effective if you (or your male partner) knows exactly when you’re reaching the point of sexual excitement when you can’t control, stop, or postpone ejaculating. This is very tricky. It’s difficult to know exactly when this moment will happen. So semen can very easily spill into the vagina, and cause pregnancy.
- Also, the fluid that leaves a man’s penis before ejaculation, also known as pre-ejaculate or pre-cum, has been known to cause pregnancy. Some experts believe this happens because pre-ejaculate can pick up sperm left in a man’s urethra from previous ejaculations.
So in order to improve the effectiveness of the withdrawal method, these experts advise you to urinate after you ejaculate.
All in all, the withdrawal method isn’t very reliable, so if getting pregnant is the worst thing in the world, this is not an ok option for you.
What can I do if sperm does enter my vagina?
If this happens to you, consider taking emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy up to five days after having unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better it will work.
How safe is withdrawal?
There are no side effects from withdrawal, so anyone can use this as a birth control method.
Do I need a prescription?
Nothing. It's free!
Is it easily available?
The only factor involved with using the withdrawal method is that both you and your partner must agree on practising it within your relationship.
If there are no other birth control methods available, the withdrawal method is safe to do. It’s free, and always available – as long as both partners agree on practising it.
The withdrawal method doesn’t protect against any STDs. You’ve got to pull out each time you have sexual intercourse.
Some couples find that the withdrawal method increases anxiety and sexual frustration, which dampens their sexual pleasure.
If you’re a woman, your male partner must always be willing and able to pull out. As well, he needs to know when he’s going to ejaculate, which can be difficult if there are alcohol or drugs involved.
In general, the withdrawal method is very tricky. It requires that the man be aware of when to pull out. This requires lots of practise, so it’s not recommended for teenagers or men who are sexually inexperienced. Also, it's not for men who ejaculate prematurely.
If you’ve read the effectiveness section, you’ll also be aware that even if you’re sexually experienced, don’t ejaculate prematurely, and know when you’re going to ejaculate, you can still get someone pregnant. So if you don’t want to have children now, use another birth control method.
Protection against STDs?
The withdrawal method offers no protection against STDs. Use a male or female condom to reduce the risk of STDs.