What Is It?

A banana squirting a milky substance next to a donut.

Withdrawal, also known as coitus interruptus and “pulling out”, is a natural method of contraception wherein the man removes his penis from his partner’s vagina before ejaculation. It is simple, relatively effective, and always an option. So why has this method not received widespread endorsement? The withdrawal method is not a widely recommended method due to the possible presence of semen in “pre-cum”. Also, a high level of discipline is required to “pull out” without ejaculating in the vagina.


An ice cream cone with melted ice cream dripping.

Before ejaculation, a man will usually emit a pre-ejaculatory fluid, known colloquially as “pre-cum.” This emission, which usually occurs during the arousal phase, is difficult to control and generally goes unnoticed by the man. Normally the vagina is acidic, which makes it hard for the sperm to travel through it. The pre-ejaculatory liquid neutralizes the vagina to facilitate the passage of the sperm. Even though there is usually no sperm present in the pre-ejaculatory fluid, it may be possible if a man has not urinated after his last ejaculation.

Advantages of the Withdrawal Method

  • It is free.
  • It can be used anytime.
  • It doesn’t involve any chemicals or hormones.
  • Many people feel comfortable using this method of birth control for medical, personal,or religious reasons.
  • There are no health side-effects that are sometimes associated with other contraceptive methods.
  • You can stop using this method whenever you want.
  • The male gets to share some of the responsibility in preventing pregnancy.
  • This method can be supplemented by another contraceptive method, such as condom use, to create an extremely effective birth control method.
  • You can use this method without any prior planning, thus it is optimal for unplanned sexual encounters.

Disadvantages of the Withdrawal Method

You Should Not Use This Method If

A half peeled banana with a thick substance on the tip.
  • You and your partner are not willing to use this method correctly.
  • You cannot trust your partner, or yourself, to withdraw before ejaculation.
  • You are at risk of contracting, or passing, a sexually transmitted infection.


Among perfect users, the failure rate is 4%, meaning that 4 out of 100 end up in pregnancy. However, the typical use rate is closer to 27%, which indicates that using the Withdrawal method may not be really effective for those who cannot (or do not) use this method perfectly.

This video provides a brief overview of the withdraw method.


  1. LeVay, Simon, Janice I. Baldwin, and John D. Baldwin. “Contraception and Abortion.” Discovering Human Sexuality. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 2009. Print.

Last Updated 13 May 2014.