Pull Out Method (Withdrawal)

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on August 08, 2022
3 min read

The pull-out method is a form of birth control in which a man takes their penis out of a woman's vagina before they ejaculate so fewer sperm get inside. It’s also known as coitus interruptus or the withdrawal method.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds. The man needs a lot of control to time it right. It doesn't work if they can't feel when they are close to orgasm or if they're so caught up in the moment that they don't pull out in time.

The best ways to use the pull-out method

Here are some tips to make it work better:

  • Use it along with another type of birth control, like a condom or the pill.
  • Use a spermicide, a chemical that kills sperm.
  • Don't rely on withdrawal alone on the days when the woman is most likely to get pregnant. You can keep track of which days are safest with an ovulation calendar.
  • Have the man pee before sex to clear out any sperm that may have gotten an early start.
  • Be consistent. Do it every time you have sex.
  • When the man ejaculates, make sure none of the fluid gets on the woman’s upper thighs or groin. Sperm on your skin can work its way inside your vagina.

Pulling out isn’t a very 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 -- about 1 in 5 -- would get pregnant. By comparison, male condoms are 98% effective when used correctly every time.

Can you get pregnant if your partner pulls out?

Yes, you can. But the pull-out method may work better than doing nothing.

Does the pull-out method prevent STDs?

No, it doesn’t. You can still get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, or syphilis while using this method.


Couples may choose this method if they wouldn’t mind a surprise pregnancy or because:

  • They don’t want to use other types of birth control for religious or philosophical reasons.
  • They need some kind of birth control right away, and it’s too late to use other methods.
  • They don’t have sex very often.
  • It's free and convenient.
  • It doesn’t involve any hormones or other chemicals.
  • It has no side effects or health risks.
  • You don't need to see a doctor or get a prescription.

Not only is it not very effective, withdrawal isn’t a good method of birth control because:

  • It takes a lot of control for the man to pull out before ejaculation.
  • The woman has no control over it at all.
  • You may feel that it gets in the way of sexual pleasure.
  • Even if they pee before sex, the man can still release fluid before they ejaculate. This pre-ejaculate does contain sperm.

If you're worried the method did not go as planned, talk to your doctor about emergency contraception, which should be taken as soon as possible after sex to try to prevent a pregnancy.