Using the Withdrawal Method for Birth Control

Withdrawal: An Ineffective Contraceptive Method

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Coitus interruptus (or the withdrawal method), is one of the oldest forms of contraceptive methods known to man. Coitus interruptus is defined as sexual intercourse that is deliberately interrupted by the withdrawal of the penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation.

The withdrawal method is not particularly effective as a contraceptive method. According to the National Center for Health Statistics only about 2.5 percent of married or cohabiting unmarried couples routinely use withdrawal, although it is used more often as an occasional backup method.

Advantages of coitus interruptus as a contraceptive technique

Coitus interruptus as a contraceptive method is better than no method at all.

The withdrawal method is cheap.

It has relatively few medical complications, except those brought about by an unwanted pregnancy or possible transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Coitus interruptus requires no preparation or supplies.

Disadvantages of coitus interruptus as a contraceptive technique

Coitus interruptus is not effective as a contraceptive technique.

Failure rates, although somewhat difficult to ascertain, are thought to be as high as 25 percent per year. A big problem is that pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum) leaks from the penis prior to ejaculation. Even a small amount of pre-seminal fluid contain live sperm.

Coitus interruptus relies on the male removing his penis from the vagina at a point prior to orgasm and often when he is in a high state of arousal.

Coitus interruptus provides no protection against sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, genital herpes or gonorrhea.

Over the long term, many couples find the withdrawal method frustrating and unsatisfactory, and experts generally recommend against relying on this method for couples who are serious about not becoming pregnant.


"Use of Contraception and Use of Family Planning Services in the United States: 1982-2002." National Center for Health Statistics. 2004. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 18 Nov 2006. 

Rogow D, Horowitz S. Withdrawal: a review of the literature and an agenda for research. Studies in family planning 26 (3), 1995: 140-53.

Edited by Richard N. Fogoros, MD

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