Never before have there been so many ways to prevent pregnancy. Most of the items on this pregnancy-prevention smorgasbord come with trade-offs that make one method more attractive to one couple and another preferred by another couple. Many couples try several before settling on a long-term contraception plan. Many are taking a fresh look at a very old method and they’re liking what they see.

What Does Pulling Out Mean?

Pulling out happens when a man removes his penis from the vagina just before ejaculation. He ejaculates outside the vagina and away from the external female genitalia to prevent sperm from entering the woman’s reproductive canal.

How Old Is This Method?

This method is so old it’s Biblical. It’s described in the Torah. Pulling out, also called withdrawal, was practiced in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire, where it was called coitus interruptus.

Coitus Interruptus and Its Competition

  • The arrival of birth control pills in the 1960s probably put a stop to a lot of romantic pulling out but, after a few decades of use, the pill is no longer the contraceptive darling it once was. Its hormonal side effects are unpleasant for many women. Pulling out has no side effects at all.
  • The IUD prevents pregnancy but it, too, has unpleasant side effects and is risky for some women. The diaphragm can be messy, awkward, and not always available when and where the mood strikes.
  • Diaphragms share a problem with condoms: they can break, rip, and tear. Many couples don’t like the feel of these barrier devices, either.
  • Pulling out is free, always available, natural, and comes with no side effects. No doctors, prescriptions, fittings, or purchases of any kind are needed. It does require mutual agreement and trust in one’s partner so many of the women most happy with this method are in committed monogamous relationships.

How Effective?

Topics as intimate as one’s sex life can be tricky to measure but medical studies do indicate all contraceptive methods are most effective when used correctly, even withdrawal. Failure rates (the number of pregnancies that happen in a year even when contraceptives are used) are said to be:

  • 4% when withdrawal is practiced effectively
  • 18% with imperfect (also called typical) use
  • 2% when condoms are used correctly
  • 17% when use is incorrect

Other contraceptives are more effective than withdrawal and condoms but none is 100% guaranteed to prevent pregnancy all the time, every time. For added protection, many women rely on condoms plus pulling out during their most fertile time of each menstrual cycle.

No One Profits

There’s very little documented evidence of the effectiveness of coitus interruptus because no one profits from its use. Contraceptive studies are usually funded by companies with a vested interested in their sales. Since withdrawal is free, funding for research is virtually nonexistent.

As effective as pulling out can be for pregnancy prevention, it is important to note that it does nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and infections. Enjoy it with a trusted partner who takes your future and your long-term health to heart.


  1. Shane, Charlotte. "Pulling Out Is as Effective as Using Condoms." Broadly. VICE Media LLC, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
  2. "Withdrawal (Pull Out Method)." Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., 2014. Web. 14 Sept. 2015.
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