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Home Health Library Tests and Procedures Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus)

Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus)

The withdrawal method — pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation — isn't the most effective birth control. Learn about the pros and cons.

Overview

The withdrawal method of contraception (coitus interruptus) happens when you take the penis out of the vagina and ejaculate outside the vagina to try to prevent pregnancy. The goal of the withdrawal method — also called "pulling out" — is to keep sperm from entering the vagina.

Using the withdrawal method for birth control requires self-control. Even then, the withdrawal method isn't an especially effective form of birth control. Sperm may enter the vagina if withdrawal isn't properly timed or if pre-ejaculation fluid contains sperm. The withdrawal method doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections.

Why it's done

People use the withdrawal method to try to prevent pregnancy. Among various benefits, the withdrawal method:

  • Is free and readily available
  • Has no side effects
  • Doesn't require a fitting or prescription

Some couples choose to use the withdrawal method because they don't want to use other contraceptive methods.

Risks

Using the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy doesn't pose any direct risks. But it doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections. Some couples also feel that the withdrawal method disrupts sexual pleasure.

The withdrawal method isn't as effective at preventing pregnancy as other forms of birth control. It's estimated that one in five couples who use the withdrawal method for one year will get pregnant.

What you can expect

To use the withdrawal method, you need to:

  • Properly time withdrawal. When you feel like ejaculation is about to happen, withdraw the penis from the vagina. Make sure that ejaculation occurs away from the vagina.
  • Take precautions before having sex again. If you plan to have sex again soon, urinate and clean off the tip of the penis first. This will help remove any remaining sperm from the last ejaculation.

If ejaculation isn't properly timed and you're concerned about pregnancy, talk with your health care provider about emergency contraception.

Last Updated: May 7th, 2022