Withdrawal

Quick Facts

Less effective

Hormone-free

Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting an STI

More effective if used with another method

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More About Withdrawal

Withdrawal is also known as pulling out. This means that the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation (cumming).  Withdrawal keeps semen away from the vagina. It takes a lot of willpower to stop during sex and pull out. Even if your partner has self-control, it’s easy to slip up. For withdrawal to be effective, use another birth control method (e.g., a condom).

Your partner must know what it feels like when they are about to cum. They must be able and willing to stop sex and pull out at that point. Even a tiny amount of sperm can cause a pregnancy. For it to be effective, your partner must pull out perfectly every time you have sex. Keep emergency contraception handy in case of a slip-up.

This method does NOT reduce your chances of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs can still spread by skin-to-skin contact, pre-cum, and vaginal fluids.

How to Use Withdrawal

The penis needs to be pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation. It must be pulled all the way out and aimed away from the vulva (the outside part of the genitals). Even a tiny bit of semen can cause pregnancy.

You and your partner need to communicate well with one another. It’s a good idea to practice pulling out with condoms. This way you can learn what signs your partner gives when they are about to cum. Also, if there’s a slip up you still reduce your chances of pregnancy or STIs.

Withdrawal works better when used with another method. Condoms and internal condoms are a great choice. They will reduce your chances of pregnancy and STIs.

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Orange donut chart showing 73%. The title says "73% effective with typical use"
Yellow donut chart showing 96%. The title says "96% effective with perfect use"

Effectiveness

  • Withdrawal is 82% effective with typical use. That is, on average,187 out of 100 people using this method will get pregnant in a year. Improve effectiveness by:
    • Withdrawing perfectly every single time. That means pulling out all the way and aiming the penis away from the vulva before cumming.
    • Using with another method such as a condom or a diaphragm.
  • Withdrawal is 6% effective with perfect use. That is, if withdrawal is used correctly all the time, 4 out of 100 people will get pregnant in a year. However, most people are not able to pull out perfectly every time.

 

Benefits

  • You don’t need a doctor’s visit or a trip to the store to use it.
  • There are no side effects – except the high risk of pregnancy.
  • It’s better than not using any birth control.
  • You can use it with another birth control to make that method more effective.
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Limitations

  • High risk of pregnancy.
  • Hard to do it perfectly every time.
  • Takes lots of self-control and communication between partners.
  • Doesn’t reduce your chances of getting an STI.

Family PACT Coverage

Withdrawal is free and you don’t need to see a doctor to use it. However, if you are eligible, a provider can talk with you about whether using it is a good choice for you. Search for a nearby Family PACT provider: click “Find Providers” in the top right-hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo