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If you do it correctly, pulling out is a pretty effective way of preventing pregnancy. But it can be hard to do it the right way every time. Pulling out also doesn’t protect against STDs, so using a condom is a good idea - both to help prevent STDs, and to add extra pregnancy prevention.

How effective is the pull out method?

The better you are about using the pull out method correctly — keeping any ejaculation (cum) away from the vulva and vagina every single time you have sex — the better it will work to prevent pregnancy. For every 100 people who use the pull out method perfectly, 4 will get pregnant.

But pulling out can be difficult to do perfectly. So in real life, about 22 out of 100 people who use withdrawal get pregnant every year — that’s about 1 in 5.

The reality is withdrawal isn’t as effective as other types of birth control, but it’s definitely better than not using anything at all. And pulling out can be easily combined with other methods to give you extra pregnancy preventing power. Using withdrawal AND condoms together, for example, gives you pretty excellent protection against pregnancy.

If you use withdrawal for birth control, it’s a good idea to keep emergency contraception (aka the morning-after pill) around, just in case semen (cum) gets in or near your vagina. Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days after unprotected sex.

Want to use a more effective form of birth control? Check out the IUD and the implant. They’re the most effective kinds of birth control.

More questions from patients:

What are the chances that I'll get pregnant using the pull-out method if I'm ovulating?

There’s no way to know your exact chances of pregnancy in a particular situation. What we do know is that withdrawal works about 78% of the time overall. But the odds of pregnancy are always higher during the 5 days leading up to, and during, ovulation — these are called fertile days.

If no semen gets on your vulva or in your vagina, pregnancy can’t happen — whether or not you’re ovulating. But it’s sometimes hard for people to know if they pulled out completely before any semen (cum) came out. And some people may also have a tiny bit of sperm in their pre-cum. If sperm gets in your vagina during your fertile days, pregnancy is more likely to happen.

It’s also hard to know for sure exactly when you ovulate, even if you’re tracking your cycle. Many people’s cycles change from month to month. And lots of things (like stress or illness) can mess with your cycle and change the timing of ovulation.

The bottom line is, there are lots of different factors that can affect your chances of getting pregnant. If you’re really worried about preventing pregnancy, you might want to look into methods of birth control that are more effective than pulling out (like IUDs, the implant, the shot, or the pill). You can also use condoms along with pulling out — that way you’ll still be protected from pregnancy even if your partner doesn’t pull out in time (and you’ll be protected from STDs, too).

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Withdrawal

  • 78% effective

  • Cost is $0

  • Dedication and skill required

Pulling out doesn’t protect you from STDs. Use a condom and withdrawal to help stop pregnancy and STDs.
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