What You Need To Know About “Pulling Out” As A Birth Control Method

If you break out in a cold sweat at the very thought of getting pregnant, you know how important birth control truly is. There are plenty of options with the pill, IUDs, shots, patches, rings, and of course, condoms — but there are still plenty of women who prefer the pull out method. It’s cheap (read: free), there’s little to no planning involved, and there are no side effects. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some important things you should know about it.

  1. Even if your technique is flawless, it’s not fool-proof. Granted, the only 100 percent effective method of birth control is abstinence, but IUDs, for example, have a 99 percent success rate, while pulling out (if you never make a mistake) still has a 4 percent failure rate, jumping to almost 20 percenet when you factor in that we’re all human and no one’s perfect.
  2. It doesn’t protect you from STIs. This should be obvious, but it still needs to be said. Even if you’re in a committed relationship, people cheat, and you could contract an STI when you least expect it. The only way to protect yourself from that is to use condoms, which many couples aren’t too keen on. Still something to keep in mind.
  3. If you track your periods, the pull out method is a lot more effective. Using a period tracking app (or just marking it on a good old fashioned calendar) can help you determine when you’re probably ovulating. Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure if it’s accurate because it’s based on the length of your average period, and we all know that can change on a whim. Still, having a good idea when you’re ovulating and acting accordingly definitely reduces the risk of an unexpected pregnancy.
  4. Effectiveness isn’t that different from condom use. A 2014 study found that with perfect use, the failure rate within one year of using the pull out method is 4 percent and with typical use is 18 percent. The failure rate for perfect use with condoms is 2 percent and with typical use is 17 percent. Not that much of a difference, which is probably why a lot of couples would prefer to take that 1 – 2 percent extra risk if it means they won’t have to bother with condoms.
  5. If you aren’t in a committed relationship, you shouldn’t be relying on the pull out method. If you have multiple sexual partners and they have multiple sexual partners, needless to say, your risk for STIs is a lot higher. Not to mention, if you are one of the 4 percent that gets pregnant using the pull out method, you might have to deal with it alone; whereas, if you were in a relationship, you’d have the support of your partner.
  6. There are many reasons health care professionals don’t endorse the pull out method. Generally speaking, your doctor probably isn’t going to tell you that the pull out method alone is sufficient birth control. They have to encourage you to be safe — it’s their job. Also, the production of any kind of birth control is a big business. If we all stopped using the pill, condoms, IUDs, etc., that would be a bad thing for a lot of companies. Not to mention, funding for research on the pull out method is hard to come by since the results could threaten the bill control industry’s bottom line.
  7. It actually takes experience and practice. If a guy isn’t very sexually experienced, he’s probably not going to know his limits very well. Since he’s the one with the sperm, it’s all up to him to pull out in time while you just have to trust he knows what he’s doing. If you don’t feel confident in his ability to do it right consistently, the pull out method might not be the best plan.
  8. There’s still a stigma. Pulling out is still generally viewed as being “irresponsible,” “risky” and “impulsive,” which is why a lot of women don’t openly talk about it being their go-to birth control method. The stereotype is that withdrawal users are lazy and just don’t care, but the opposite is actually true. Couples who choose to use the pull out method are more likely to have thought through what they’d do if they do get pregnant, because in their minds they are still playing with fire, so they need a back up plan.
By day, Courtney is a digital marketing copywriter living in Toronto, Canada. By night, she's a freelance lifestyle writer who, in addition to Bolde.com, contributes regularly to AmongMen.ca, IN Magazine, and SheBlogs Canada. Want to chat about relationships, Stephen King or your favorite true crime podcast/documentary/book? She's on Twitter @courtooo.