The withdrawal method, also knowing as pulling out or coitus interruptus, has been used to try and prevent pregnancy since olden times, when we didn't have the choice of methods available today.
The idea is that during sex the man will pull his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates so that his sperm doesn’t get a chance to make the woman pregnant.
Although people often think of withdrawal as a method of contraception, it’s an unreliable way to prevent pregnancy.
The way it’s typically used means around 22 out of 100 women relying on it will get pregnant in a year.
This is because:
- It needs consistency and self-control that’s not easy to practice in the heat of the moment. Many men just don’t withdraw fast enough.
- Even if a man pulls out in time, pregnancy could still be a risk. A study in 2011 found that fluid released before ejaculation (often called pre-cum) sometimes contained live sperm – and if live sperm gets into the vagina it could go on to meet and fertilise an egg.
So if you don't want to risk an unplanned pregnancy then using a more reliable method is your best bet.
It’s also less stressful as you can stop worrying about whether withdrawal will happen in time and concentrate on enjoying sex!
So which methods are the most reliable?
No method of contraception is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy but some are more effective than others.
Whichever method you choose, only male and female condoms will help protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).