Pull Out Method (Withdrawal)

Can You Get Pregnant If Your Partner Pulls Out?

Yes, you can. The pull out method, also called the withdrawal method, is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy. But it works better than doing nothing. And it can be an option for some couples who wouldn't mind getting pregnant. You might hear it called coitus interruptus.

How Does the Withdrawal Method Work?

The man takes his penis out of the woman's vagina before he ejaculates so fewer sperm get inside. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The man needs a lot of control to time it right. It doesn't work if he can't feel when he's close to orgasm or if he’s so caught up in the moment that he doesn't pull out in time.

Here are some tips to make it work better:

  • Use a spermicide.
  • Don't rely on withdrawal on the days you're most likely to get pregnant. You can keep track of which days are safest with an ovulation calendar.
  • Have your partner pee before sex to clear out any sperm that may have gotten an early start.
  • When your partner ejaculates outside of you, make sure no fluid gets on your upper thighs or groin. Sperm on your skin can work its way inside your vagina.

How Effective Is Pulling Out?

Pulling out isn’t a reliable way to prevent pregnancy. It works about 78% of the time, which means that over a year of using this method, 22 out of 100 women would get pregnant. By comparison, condoms are 98% effective when used correctly every time.

Cons of the Withdrawal Method

In addition to not preventing pregnancy all that well, this isn’t a good method of birth control because:

  • It does nothing to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). So it can’t help if there's any chance you could get something from your partner.
  • It takes a lot of control for the man to pull out before ejaculation.
  • The woman has no control at all.
  • Even if he pees before sex, the man can still release a fluid before he ejaculates. This is called pre-ejaculate and it does contain sperm.

But for couples who wouldn't mind a surprise pregnancy, the withdrawal method has benefits. It's free and convenient. It has no side effects, and you don't need to see a doctor or get a prescription.

What Should You Do If the Pull Out Method Fails?

If you’re worried you could be pregnant, talk to your doctor about emergency contraception.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on August 05, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Bedsider: "5 myths about pulling out, busted."

CDC: "Contraception."

Feminist Women's Health Center: "Withdrawal ('Pulling Out')."

Planned Parenthood: "Withdrawal (Pull-Out Method)."

Trussell, J. Contraception, May 2011.

Center for Young Women’s Health: “Contraception: Pros and Cons of Different Contraceptive Methods.”

Journal of the British Fertility Society: “Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid.”

Mayo Clinic: “Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus).”

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