Is the Pull-Out Method an Effective Form of Birth Control?

Relying on Withdrawal Has Risks

The withdrawal method is a form of birth control that’s also known as “pulling out.” The method involves withdrawing the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation. You may wonder if you can still get pregnant using this method.

The withdrawal method is not a very effective form of birth control. However, doing it correctly can make a difference.

This article looks at the correct way to use the withdrawal method. It also discusses whether this method is effective, and how to reduce some of its risks.

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Effectiveness of the Withdrawal Method

The withdrawal method is sometimes used during sex to decrease the chance of pregnancy. It is also called the “pull-out method” or coitus interruptus. Though it’s better than nothing at all, it’s still risky if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy.

The calculated risk of pregnancy when using the pull-out method the right way is thought to be about 4%. This means for every 100 couples who use the pull-out method, four pregnancies will happen. It is important to remember, too, that this number only applies to couples who use the method correctly every time.

Couples often use the pull-out method incorrectly. Incorrect use comes with a pregnancy risk of 22%. In other words, 22 out of 100 couples who don’t use the method the right way will become pregnant.

Using the Pullout Method Correctly

Correct use of the pull-out method requires self-control and timing. Males need to know exactly when they are reaching the point at which they can’t delay or stop ejaculation. This is critical for pulling out at the right moment. Even if your partner has excellent self-control, though, there’s no guarantee you will not get pregnant.

Using the withdrawal method without any other form of birth control is risky. You still can get pregnant even if your partner pulls out in time. This is because a small amount of pre-ejaculate semen is released before ejaculation. There is sperm in this small amount of semen, which can lead to pregnancy if you’re ovulating. Ovulation is when your body releases an egg.

Pregnancy can also happen if semen or pre-ejaculate is spilled on the vulva, the external opening of the vagina.

Another risk of the pull-out method is that it does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Using a condom is your best bet for reducing the risk of an STI.

Benefits of the Withdrawal Method

The withdrawal method is one of the riskiest forms of birth control. Still, there are a few benefits to using it. For example:

  • Pulling out is simple and convenient for both partners.
  • It can always be used if no other method of birth control is available.
  • There are no reported medical or hormonal side effects to using this method.
  • It doesn’t require a prescription.
  • It costs no money to use.
  • Withdrawal can improve the effectiveness of other forms of birth control.

Risks of Pulling Out

This birth control method has major risks and disadvantages. This is especially true if it’s your only form of birth control. For example:

  • There is a high risk of pregnancy.
  • It doesn’t protect against STIs.
  • It’s very easy to use incorrectly, especially for teens and sexually inexperienced males.
  • It requires great self-control, practice, and experience, and is still not guaranteed effective.
  • It should not be used by men who experience premature ejaculation.


There are both risks and benefits to using the withdrawal method. It’s convenient, free, and always available, but it also comes with a risk of pregnancy and exposure to STIs.

Reducing the Risks of the Pull-out Method

If your goal is to avoid pregnancy, use additional birth control methods such as:

These methods can all be used with the withdrawal method.

If you are concerned about STIs, consider using condoms. Condoms provide the highest level of protection from STIs. Ask your doctor for advice on the method that’s best for you.


The withdrawal method is one of the riskiest forms of birth control. It must be used correctly in order to prevent pregnancy. Even then, there is still a good chance it won’t work.

To use this method the right way, males must know exactly when to pull out. This requires good self-control and timing.

If you’re concerned about pregnancy, use the withdrawal method along with other birth control methods. If you’re also concerned about STIs, it’s a good idea to also use a condom.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Jones RK, Lindberg LD, Higgins JA. Pull and pray or extra protection? Contraceptive strategies involving withdrawal among US adult womenContraception. 2014;90(4):416–421. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2014.04.016

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Effectiveness of family planning methods.

  3. Kovavisarach E, Lorthanawanich S, Muangsamran P. Presence of sperm in pre-ejaculatory fluid of healthy males. J Med Assoc Thai. 2016;99(Suppl 2):S38-S41.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Condoms and STDs: fact sheet for public health personnel

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.