Withdrawal (Pulling Out)

Also known as “coitus interruptus,” withdrawal is the removal of the penis from a partner’s vagina before ejaculation, (before he comes). Withdrawal may be the most common method of birth control since it’s free and always available. The purpose of withdrawal is to prevent contact between egg and sperm and reduce the possibility of pregnancy.

Some people have criticized withdrawal as a non-method, yet it is 78% effective for pregnancy prevention, depending on the male partner’s self-knowledge and self-control. Withdrawal does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS.

How it works

During sex, the penis releases two kinds of fluids. The first is pre-ejaculate or pre-cum, a lubricant made in a gland in the penis. This fluid usually contains no sperm, but can transmit infections. The second, released with ejaculation, is semen, which is made in the testicles and carries thousands of sperm in addition to any sexually transmittable infections that may be present.

Because previous ejaculations can leave some sperm behind in the folds of the penis, it is important for the man to urinate and wipe the tip of his penis to flush out leftover sperm from the urethra, the tube from which both urine and semen exit the penis.


Before intercourse, the male partner should urinate and wipe the tip of the penis, to ensure no sperm enter the vagina. During sex, partners can have penis-in-vagina sex until the male partner nears ejaculation.

When the male partner feels close to ejaculation, he must withdraw his penis from his partner’s vagina and crotch. Be careful because even sperm (semen) outside the vagina, but on the vulva or on the legs near the vulva, can travel inside and cause pregnancy.

Some partners may decide to have intercourse in the early stages of their sex play, then withdraw and use other forms of stimulation to reach mutual orgasm. This use of withdrawal can reduce anxiety about the timing of a partner’s ejaculation and reduce the risk of an unintended pregnancy.


The effectiveness of withdrawal depends on communication between partners before and during sex, as well as the male partner’s knowledge and experience with his own body. Withdrawal may not be effective if the male partner is unable to withdraw before his orgasm.

Partners who are less experienced with withdrawal may have a higher risk of pregnancy during their first attempts with this method. Teens are the age group for which this method is the least effective. To increase effectiveness, new partners may also want to use spermicide or fertility awareness (learning when a female’s menstrual cycle, pregnancy is more likely or less likely). If sperm come near or inside the vagina, taking Emergency Contraception can still be an option for preventing pregnancy.

Health Impacts

Drugs, alcohol, young age, or lack of sexual experience can reduce success. It is less effective for males who have multiple orgasms. Withdrawal is not an effective method for preventing the spread of Reproductive Tract Infections, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI), including HIV/AIDS.

Side Effects

There are no side effects to using withdrawal. Some partners may experience nervousness that may, in turn, decrease pleasure. Using additional methods of birth control can help reduce anxiety.


  • Free and always available
  • No side effects.
  • Does not alter the menstrual cycle.
  • Does not affect future fertility.
  • Can help partners be more aware of and learn about their sexual responsiveness.
  • More effective with better partner communication.
  • Useful for people with religious concerns about using other methods.
  • More effective than using no birth control.


  • Does not protect against HIV/AIDS.
  • Requires male’s ability to predict ejaculation and use self-control.
  • Less effective with less sexual experience.
  • Less effective than other methods of birth control.
  • Less effective if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Nervousness and sexual interruption may lessen pleasure.

Participation in Pregnancy Prevention

Like condoms, withdrawal is one of the few methods of birth control that male partners can control. Female partners play an important role in withdrawal through communication and attention to sexual responses.

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