Can “Pulling Out” Really Keep You From Getting Pregnant?

Can “Pulling Out” Really Keep You From Getting Pregnant? ©iStock/PeopleImages

So you’re doing the deed, and right before your dude is about to come, he pulls his P out of your V and aims his ejaculation across the room (and hopefully also away from your favorite article of clothing, but that is another tale for another time). Pulling out is also known as “withdrawal”, or “coitus interruptus” if you’re fancy and/or a Latin speaker.

Planned Parenthood reports that when done correctly, pulling out is 96% effective: “Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 4 will become pregnant each year if they always do it correctly.” The key word here, of course, is “always.” No birth control method is 100% effective – although if women ran the world, maybe such a golden unicorn would roam these earthly hills – but whichever method you choose, you need to get it right every single time in order to achieve your desired results.

If you’re curious about that 4% pregnancy rate despite correct use, it is most likely due to sperm left over in the plumbing from the last time he ejaculated. “Pre-ejaculate does not generally contain sperm, contrary to popular belief,” says Lily Shield, RN, who has spent years working as a reproductive choices counselor. The leftovers naturally get cleared out with time and/or pee, she notes, so if he’s engaging in back-to-back bang sessions, there might still be some sperm hanging out in the pipes between orgasms.

Planned Parenthood also reports that when done inconsistently, pulling out is 73% effective: “Of every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, 27 will become pregnant each year if they don’t always do it correctly.” “Incorrectly” in this case basically means getting ejaculation in, on, or close enough to your lady parts that swimmers can swim.

Very important fact: Pulling out cannot protect you against any existent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can be transmitted via bodily fluids and/or skin-to-skin contact. Sperm or no sperm, if it wants to, herpes gonna herp.

How do you decide whether pulling out is a good choice for you? How do you like asking yourself questions? You love it? Great, here’s a list!

  • Am I thinking about doing this as a one-time thing, an every-once-in-a-while thing, an all-the-time thing?
  • Do I want to combine this with another contraceptive method just so I have two situations going at once for peace of mind? Which other method(s)?
  • What are my concerns about STIs?
  • Am I comfortable putting all my trust in this fellow to remove his item from my item just at the very moment he most desperately and intensely wants to keep it in there? Once? Sometimes? Every time? At certain times of the month but not others? Only if we’re also using other contraception? What kind?
  • Did I do this once and it freaked me out so bad I had to buy 12 pregnancy tests and a tote bag full of the morning-after pill, roll up to the clinic first thing the next morning, and start or up my anti-anxiety meds? Is just thinking about it sending me into hyperventilation?

Maybe you’re reading this article after a Sunday morning walk of shame followed by a panic-Google. Look, crap happens. No judgment. Maybe you’re a total virgin who is nerdily researching contraceptive options years before you think you might even be ready to hold hands with a guy, let alone have sex with one. No judgment. Maybe you’re just pull out-curious. No judgment there, either. The important thing is that you make the best, most informed choices about your health and your body. For you. So even (or especially) if you are fighting off the voices of the slut-shaming, take a deep breath…now take another one…and pat yourself on the back for caring. Fact.