Withdrawal is the oldest form of birth control on the planet. There’s not much to explain, really. The guy pulls out before he ejaculates. End of story. Some people call withdrawal the “pull out method.” Or you may hear people call it “coitus interruptus.” The key thing to remember is this: You’ve got to do it right—every single time—for withdrawal to be effective. And how many guys do you know with that kind of total control?

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You wouldn’t mind getting pregnant

The “typical use” failure rate for withdrawal is around 20%. That’s pretty darn high. So if getting pregnant would be disastrous for you, think about another method.

Your partner has super control

Your partner needs to be a pro in bed for withdrawal to work. Really. Withdrawal requires extreme body awareness and the ability to predict ejaculation (and pull-out before it happens).

You can use it with another method

You can use withdrawal to double-up with another method.

At least it’s cheap

Withdrawal is certainly better than nothing, and it has the distinct advantage of being completely free.

No prescription necessary

Enough said, eh?

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with withdrawal.

Withdrawal is a method that is totally free, but risky. While you won’t have to spend anything to use it, you have to do it correctly every single time for it to work.

The withdrawal method is totally dependent on your partner and his self-control. He’s got to make sure he pulls out before he ejaculates AND he’s got to keep his semen away from your vulva when he does. So it’s really important that your partner understands his own sexual response patterns.

But let’s be real for a minute. What if he’s had a few drinks? Or you’re both just totally lost in the moment? Or what if he miscalculates his, uh, excitement?

Withdrawal is always better than nothing—but it’s pretty darn risky if you’re serious about not getting pregnant.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

The Negative

  • As inexpensive as it gets
  • No prescription necessary.
  • The only side effect of withdrawal is very real possibility of having a baby before you’re ready
  • Difficult to perform perfectly every single time
  • Hard to remember to do if you’re drunk

You might want to use a spermicide along with pulling out to make withdrawal more effective.

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I want something more effective, but still don't want to visit the doctor.

    Good to hear that you’re thinking about more reliable methods of birth control! You can buy multiple methods over-the-counter such as condoms, internal condoms, the sponge, and spermicide. However, the most effective methods are only available after a visit with the doctor, so we hope you’ll think about making an appointment. At the very least it’s good to be getting annual exams when you’re sexually active.

    Try searching for low costs clinics, if you don’t have insurance coverage. And while you’re there for the appointment, you might as well talk with your provider about your birth control options, right?

    Still not working?

    Even if you’re dead set against a visit to the doctor, we still want you to be covered. Give female condoms or male condoms a go—you can find them in drug stores, clinics, supermarkets, and even some bars and clubs.

    You can also get emergency contraception without a prescription over the counter or online. It’s great to have on hand, but we don’t recommend you use it as a regular method. Think of it as a back-up for those “whoops” moments.

    Try a different method

  • ... I want something more effective and don't mind a doctor visit.

    Good for you for looking into more reliable methods of birth control!

    Still not working?

    If you don’t mind visiting your doctor for a prescription or procedure, you might want to check out one of these more effective methods: IUD, the implant, the shot, the ring, the patch, or the pill.

    Try a different method

  • ...I can't tell when my partner is about to come.

    Everyone is different, so there are no universal signals to look out for. Communicating with your partner will help. If you want to use withdrawal for birth control but your partner is unsure what his signals are, practice with a condom first, or it might be fun to mess around without penetrative sex to learn his “I’m getting close” quirks.

    Still not working?

    Still not working?

    If you don’t want to get pregnant now and your guy isn’t a pro at pulling out, you may want to use a more effective method. A few that don’t require an action in the moment are the IUD, the implant, and the shot. Double up with a condom for STI protection.

    Try a different method


Perfect use
96 %
Typical use
80 %
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quick facts /

  • Withdrawal doesn’t cost a dime or require a visit to the doctor.

  • Somewhat effective, but depends on your guy always pulling out in time. Always.

  • No hormones, no devices, no side effects.

  • Has to happen every single time you have sex.