Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus)

Withdrawal method


The withdrawal method of contraception (coitus interruptus) is the practice of withdrawing the penis from the vagina and away from a woman's external genitals before ejaculation to prevent pregnancy. The goal of the withdrawal method — also called "pulling out" — is to prevent sperm from entering the vagina.

Using the withdrawal method for birth control requires self-control. Even then, the withdrawal method isn't an especially effective form of birth control. Sperm may enter the vagina if withdrawal isn't properly timed or if pre-ejaculation fluid contains sperm. The withdrawal method doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections.

Why it's done

The withdrawal method of contraception can help prevent pregnancy. Among various benefits, the withdrawal method:

  • Is free and readily available
  • Has no side effects
  • Doesn't require a fitting or prescription

Some couples choose to use the withdrawal method because they don't want to use other contraceptive methods. Learn about male birth control pills


Using the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy doesn't pose any direct risks, but it doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections. Some couples also feel that the withdrawal method disrupts sexual pleasure.

The withdrawal method isn't as effective at preventing pregnancy as other forms of birth control. It's estimated that one in five couples who practice the withdrawal method for one year will get pregnant.

What you can expect

To use the withdrawal method:

  • Properly time withdrawal. When a man feels he's about to ejaculate, he must withdraw his penis from the woman's vagina. Make sure that ejaculation occurs away from the woman's genitals.
  • Take precautions before having sex again. If you plan to have sex again within a short period of time, make sure the man urinates and cleans off the tip of his penis first. This will help remove any remaining sperm from the previous ejaculation.

If ejaculation isn't properly timed and you're concerned about pregnancy, consult your health care provider about emergency contraception.

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