Does the Pull Out Method Actually Work as a Form of Birth Control?

Sexual Wellness | | Helena Lorimer
7 min read

While there are various types of birth control methods, such as taking the contraceptive pill, using condoms, and having an IUD, some people rely on the pull out method. Today, we’re going to uncover whether the pull out method is actually a legitimate means of birth control, of course beginning with an introduction as to what it is.

After this, we’ll discuss:

  • if you can get pregnant via the pull out method
  • if the pull out method prevents the spread of STIs
  • the benefits of the pull out method
  • the health risks of the pull of method
  • what you can do if you’ve used the pull out method with a failed result

What is the Pull Out Method?

The pull out method is a form of birth control in which a man will remove their penis from a woman’s vagina before they ejaculate. In this way, the man does not wear a condom. This is done in an attempt to remove the chance of sperm getting inside of the vagina, with the hope that it will not cause pregnancy.  The pull out method is more scientifically known as the “coitus interruptus”, and sometimes it’s called the “withdrawal method”.

The thing about the pull out method however, is that it’s not as easy as it sounds. A man needs a lot of control to remove their penis at the right time. Some men may not even feel when they are close to orgasm as they may be too caught up in the moment to realise it. This can be a huge risk, making this form of birth control somewhat unreliable or difficult. If you are planning to use the pull out method, it’s safer to do so with a partner that you trust. And it’s important that you (and all of your other partners) have been tested for any STIs. Plus, it’ll be much safer if you practise the pull out method with an accompanying method of birth control, such as the contraceptive pill or spermicide (a chemical that kills sperm). We also suggest women to track their cycle, and avoid the pull out method on the days in which they are most likely to get pregnant.

Can You Get Pregnant Using the Pull Out Method?

The short answer? Yes, you can get pregnant using the pull out method. Whether a woman is ovulating or not, it’s still possible. This is because, if the pull out method isn’t done perfectly, sperm can live inside of the body for up to seven days. Side note: ovulation is when a woman is at her most fertile, usually around 12 to 14 days before their next period starts. If you do practice the pull out method however, It is said that the effectiveness of it is around 96 percent… but only when it is done perfectly. In other words, four out of 100 women who use the pull out method perfectly will fall pregnant. On the other hand, if it’s not done perfectly, 22 out of 100 women (on average) will become pregnant from the pull out method. This is equal to around one in five women. It’s also important that if you practice the pull out method, that the man ejaculates nowhere near the vaginal opening.

And, if you’re planning to have sex for a second time, there may still be sperm left inside of the penis, on the penis, or on the hands. For that reason, washing the penis and hands before round two is always a good idea. Lastly, and just as an extra level of protection, pre-cum itself doesn’t contain sperm, but sperm can leak into it as it travels down the urethra, where residuals may be present from previous ejaculations. In this way, sperm could be released with pre-cum prior to the release of semen.

Does the Pull Out Method Prevent the Spread of STIs?

The pull out method doesn’t prevent the spread of STIs and HIV. Many STIs are spread through skin-to-skin contact, so if you’re practising the pull out method (and thus not wearing a condom), you could be at risk for spreading or contracting an STI or HIV. What’s also important to note is that some STIs such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhoea, can be carried in pre-cum. The only suggestion we have, if you’re dead-set on using the pull out method as your only form of birth control, is to practise doing so with a condom until both partners feel as though they can practise this method perfectly.

What Are the Benefits of the Pull Out Method?

Everyone who uses the pull out method should be extremely careful–that is a given. So if you are using this form of birth control, it’s about being precise and mindful.

On the other hand, there are actually some benefits to the pull out method:

  • It can be more convenient for both partners
  • It can be used if there is no other form of birth control available
  • There are no reported medical or hormonal side effects of using this birth control method
  • It doesn’t require a visit to the doctor or clinic, nor getting medication from the pharmacy
  • It doesn’t cost any money
  • When used with another form of birth control, such as ‘the pill’ it can make it even more effective
  • It could be an alternative to those who don’t want to use other forms of birth control for personal, religious, or medical reasons

What Are the Risks of the Pull Out Method?

And, just like most things in life, there are benefits and risks… and using the pull out method does come with a few.

These are the risks involved with the pull out method:

  • It can be difficult to pull out in time for many reasons; it may feel too good to pull out, one might get lost in the moment and forget to pull out, one may not pull out in time, one might change their mind during intercourse and not pull out
  • The pull out method is not recommended if a man experiences premature ejaculation, because they may ejaculate before they’re ready or without realising that it’s about to happen
  • It requires a lot of self control, and both partners need to be firm in their decision to pull out at the perfect time
  • The woman has no control over this kind of birth control
  • It may disrupt or diminish your sexual pleasure
  • It doesn’t prevent the spread of STIs and HIV

I’ve Used the Pull Out Method and it Failed… Now What?

If you’ve used the pull out method and you feel that your partner did not pull out in time, then don’t panic.

These are the steps you can take if the pull out method failed:

  • Go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet, bearing down. Use your vaginal muscles to push out any ejaculate that may be inside of you
  • Urinate as soon after sex as possible, which will help to remove semen that is outside of your vaginal opening
  • Wash your vagina thoroughly

In addition to this, here are two others things that you can do:

  • Take the emergency contraceptive pill (the morning after pill) as close to the time you had sex as possible. There is a 72-hour window in which you can take this pill after intercourse. The sooner you take it, the better
  • If it has been more than 72 hours since your sexual encounter, you could take ulipristal acetate (Ella), which can be taken up to five days after sexual activity. For this pill however, you will need to visit a doctor or clinic to get a prescription
  • Take a pregnancy test if you have a missed period. A pregnancy test is reliable as from the first day of a missed period

At the end of the day, the pull out method is a valid form of birth control, yes, but it is most definitely not the most effective one. It is up to you and your partner whether you’d like to use this method during intercourse, but there should always be a strong level of trust between partners, and lots of self-control involved.

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