Withdrawal Method

Effectiveness of the Withdrawal Method

The withdrawal method of contraception is defined as the deliberate act of a male pulling his penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. It is also called "coitus interruptus," or commonly, the "pull out method." In fact, withdrawal can be thought of as the world's oldest method of birth control. In today's modern society, approximately 35 million couples worldwide still rely on it as a contraceptive method. Effectiveness is always a very important and common concern, when considering a couple's choice of an appropriate form of contraception. Like other types of birth control, the withdrawal method is much more effective when it is practiced correctly. The withdrawal method's effectiveness is quite low as it is only 78 percent effective in pregnancy prevention. Couples, who have a great deal of self-control, sexual experience, and mutual trust, will be able to practice this birth control method much more effectively than others.

Effectiveness of the Withdrawal Method

Coitus interruptus is considered to be a contraceptive method simply because it is intended to keep sperm from entering the vagina. Effectiveness in preventing an unplanned pregnancy is always an important issue and a very common concern when it comes to a couple's choice of an appropriate form of contraception that suits all their personal needs.

As with other types of birth control, the withdrawal method is much more effective when it is practiced correctly. Overall, its effectiveness is quite low. It is considered to be 78 percent effective in pregnancy prevention. According to Planned Parenthood Federation of America (2013) statistics, four out of every 100 women whose sexual partners use the withdrawal method will become pregnant each year. This is the effectiveness rate when it is always practiced properly. By comparison, 27 out of every 100 women whose partners use this technique will become pregnant every year if it is not used correctly every time the couple engages in sexual intercourse.

Couples who possess a great deal of self-control, experience, and mutual trust will be able to practice this natural birth control method more effectively than those who do not have these traits. The male partner must be acutely aware of when the couple has reached the point in sexual intercourse when his ejaculation can no longer be postponed or stopped so that he can withdraw his penis from his partner. If the male in a relationship is unable to predict this moment accurately, this method is likely not a good contraception choice for the couple, as the risk of pregnancy is too great.

The reason that the withdrawal method is not particularly effective is that even when a man pulls out prior to ejaculating, pregnancy is still a distinct possibility. Medical experts believe that the "pre-ejaculate" fluid can contain a sufficient amount of sperm, left over from a previous ejaculation, to result in pregnancy. However, if the male partner urinates in between ejaculations, before engaging in intercourse again, this will aid in clearing any sperm out of his urethra, hence increasing the effectiveness of pulling out.

Pregnancy is also a possibility if the seminal fluid or "pre-ejaculate" accidently spills over onto the external female genitalia (vulva or opening of the vagina), as it can still travel up into the vagina and possibly fertilize a released egg.

Advantages of the Withdrawal Method

Some couples prefer this method of birth control because it:

  • Is safe, simple, and convenient to use, especially if no other contraceptive method is available at the time they decide to have sex.
  • Has no medical and/or hormonal side effects.
  • Requires no prescription from a doctor.
  • Costs nothing.
  • Can be used with other types of birth control methods, such as the cervical cap, condoms, or diaphragm, actually making them more effective birth control options.

Disadvantages of the Withdrawal Method

There are certain risks involved in practicing the withdrawal method as a primary form of birth control. The biggest disadvantage is the chance of not using it correctly. Other disadvantages include:

  • It requires a great degree of self-control, experience, and relationship trust.
  • There is a chance of accidental premature ejaculation.
  • Poor timing on behalf of the male (pulling out too late) could lead to conception.
  • This particular method is definitely not recommended for either sexually inexperienced teenagers or inexperienced men who may not be absolutely sure when their ejaculation is going to happen.
  • Withdrawal does not protect either of the sexual partners from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Latex condoms or female condoms are the only two recommended methods for effectively reducing the risks of contracting either STDs or STIs.


  • Mayo Clinic (2013). Withdrawal method. Retrieved from:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/withdrawal-method/MY01050
  • Planned Parenthood (2013). Withdrawal method. Retrieved from:http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/withdrawal-pull-out-method-4218.htm

Pregnant or planning a family? Mobile Mom is here to help. We have the tools you need from the friends you trust. Calculate when you’re most fertile, see if you might be pregnant, or get the support you need from other moms with apps by Mobile Mom.