When it comes to sexual health and contraception, there are many methods available to choose from. However, one of the most controversial methods is the withdrawal method, also called the 'pulling out' or 'pull out method.' It involves removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation occurs.

The withdrawal method can, in theory, reduce - but does not eliminate - your risk of unplanned pregnancy. But how effective is it? Let's delve into this topic further by exploring whether the pull-out method works and comparing the withdrawal method vs using condoms.

Table of Contents:

What is The Withdrawal Method?

A withdrawal method is a form of contraception in which the male partner removes his penis from the vagina before ejaculation. The pull-out method does not use any barrier method, such as condoms, femidoms or diaphragms, and does not involve any medications or hormones. Sometimes people refer to it as 'pulling out' or 'the pull-out method,' and even coitus interrupts (interrupted sex) and the 'pull out game'.

How Effective Is The Pull Out Method?

Though it reduces pregnancy risk, the withdrawal method does not provide perfect protection against pregnancy. Recent studies by Planned Parenthood have found that when carried out perfectly every time, the withdrawal method is about 78% effective at preventing pregnancy - meaning 22 out of 100 people using this method will become pregnant each year, so it is not one of the better birth control methods.

When used typically (i.e., not perfect every time), the pull-out method is about 73% effective at preventing pregnancy - meaning 27 out of 100 people using this birth control method will become pregnant each year.

Can You Get Pregnant or Contract an STI Because of Pre-Cum?

Pre-cum is a clear fluid that is released from the penis before ejaculation. The fluid might contain sperm (the subject divides medical professionals) - with one being enough to create a pregnancy. (source)

Not only can there be bacteria and viruses in pre-ejaculatory fluid, but some STIs pass from skin to skin contact - such as herpes (HSV), the human papilloma virus (HPV) and syphilis. Therefore, if you use the withdrawal method for contraception, be aware that STIs are still possible even if it is successful to prevent pregnancy. 

A condom helps prevent organisms transferring from one skin surface to another.

Should I Use The Withdrawal Method?

Considering its relatively low effectiveness rate and lack of protection against STIs, we generally do not recommend using only the pull-out method as a form of contraception. Instead, we suggest using LARC methods (Long-acting reversible contraception - like the coil or implant), birth control pills, condoms, or other barrier methods in combination with this method.

That way, you can reduce your risk of unplanned pregnancy and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, gonorrhoea and chlamydia, protecting your sexual and reproductive health.

What Should I Do If The Withdrawal Method Goes Wrong?

If you think the withdrawal method might have failed, taking action as soon as possible is essential. First, get immediate help regarding emergency contraception. Time is of the essence. Contact your local sexual health clinic, GP or pharmacist without delay.

Next, you will need STI screening, but this cannot be done until 10 days minimum after unprotected sex as before this is too early to test. 

What are The Disadvantages of The Pull-Out Method?

While the withdrawal method might have some advantages, such as economic reasons and spontaneity, it does have some downsides. These include:

  • It can be challenging to pull out in time.
  • It doesn't protect against STIs or unwanted pregnancy.
  • Its effectiveness rate is low.
  • It gives away your right to choose.

The above are just some reasons why the withdrawal method is not a reliable form of contraception or protection against infections.

Your Health in His Hands

Ultimately, it's important to remember that having control of your sexual health is up to you - not your partner. If you are considering using the withdrawal method as a form of contraception, be sure to discuss this with your partner and make an informed decision together.

Additionally, if possible, use condoms or other barrier methods in combination with pulling out for greater protection. Taking charge of your sexual health can help ensure that you are safe and healthy now and in the future. Tracking your menstrual cycle to avoid using the pull out method during the most fertile time can also help to reduce the chance of pregnancy, but don't rely on this. 

Taking control of your reproductive health is essential, instead of leaving it up to your partner to decide whether or not he will pull out in time. Remembering this will enable you to stay safe and healthy both now and in the future.

Using condoms or other effective contraceptive methods in combination means there's no need to use the withdrawal method. Sexually active couples are advised to 'Double Dutch' - that is the use of a reliable method of contraception such as a LARC method, plus using a condom as well for STI protection. (Source)

Condoms Can Enhance Your Sex Life

Some people use the withdrawal method because taking a risk is exciting. Wouldn't it be better to enhance your sex life healthily? After all, there's nothing funny about an unwanted pregnancy or a nasty STI.

There are some fantastic options to help you have a great time but be safe simultaneously. There are lots of different shapes, sizes, textures and flavours, so it'll be easy to find something that works for you and your partner.

You don't need to do anything dangerous or take any risks when having sex - there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself while also taking care of your sexual health. If you really must use the withdrawal or pull-out method, using condoms or other barrier methods with withdrawal is one way to protect yourself and your partner.

Here are our favourite fun condoms:

Skins Mint Condoms are ribbed and flavoured with a light mint scent, giving you plenty of pleasure while keeping yourself safe.

Variety is the spice of life! EXS Variety Pack Condoms come with a selection of condoms in different shapes, sizes, and textures to find the perfect experience for both of you.

  • Pasante Glow Condoms

Pasante Glow Condoms are ribbed and dotted for extra pleasure and have a neon glow-in-the-dark effect that will really light up your bedroom.

Who knew dots and ribs could be so much fun? Skins Dots and Ribs Condoms provide extra stimulation for both partners to enjoy.


How Effective Are Condoms?

Perfect use of a condom is effective 98% of the time - meaning 2 out of every 100 couples using them for a year would get pregnant. But with typical use of a condom - which is far more common - that effectiveness rate drops to 82% - meaning 18 out of every 100 couples would get pregnant. This is a very high failure rate for contraception. 

Unless a woman is happy to accept the risk of becoming pregnant, she should use a reliable method of contraception such as a LARC method, plus condoms to prevent STIs.

Find out more about how effective condoms are in our blog.

Can You Get An STD/STI From A Condom?

Although condoms can significantly reduce the chance of catching an STD/STI, it is still possible. Typical use of condoms gives 79% protection from STIs overall. This means there is still a 21% risk of acquiring or transmitting an STI even when a condom has been used.

Even those who always use condoms should have regular STI tests. 

What Size Condom Do I Need?

Making sure you have the right size condom is a very important requirement for preventing pregnancy and STIs. Read our guide to help you to choose the right condom size. Check out our range of condom sizes, including specific measurements like the 69mm range, or our large condoms range. Or the MY.SIZE range covers 45mm up to 72mm. 


If you're looking for a form of contraception that does not involve taking risks, the pull-out method is not your best option. Before you try withdrawal, think about your options carefully and talk it through with your partner.

Sexually active couples who do not want an unplanned pregnancy are strongly advised to use a reliable method of contraception such as a LARC method, plus condoms for STI protection. (Source) For extra fun, why not try flavoured, glow-in-the-dark, ribbed or dotted condoms?

Ultimately, it's your choice what you do - don't forget to take care of your sexual health for the sake of you and your partner or partners.

Jan 23, 2024
Reviewed by:
Feb 17, 2023
Written by:
Victoria Walsh