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Does Pulling Out Prevent Pregnancy? (Withdrawal)
Does Pulling Out Prevent Pregnancy? (Withdrawal)
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Does Pulling Out Prevent Pregnancy? (Withdrawal)

Youth

Before deciding to have sex, it’s important for people to have what they need to avoid an unintended pregnancy. There are many different contraceptive options or ways to prevent a pregnancy, including pills, shots, patches, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and other options. Withdrawal (also known as “pulling out”) is another type of contraceptive or birth control method that can be used during penile-vaginal sex. It involves removing the penis from the vagina before the penis ejaculates or releases semen. If semen gets into the vagina, there is a risk of pregnancy. For withdrawal to be effective, the penis must be pulled out of the vagina before any semen comes out.

 

There are several things that can make the withdrawal method less effective. Having the awareness and self-control not to ejaculate into a partner’s vagina can be very challenging. In some rare cases, couples who use withdrawal regularly may still get pregnant if the partner with a penis has sperm in their pre-ejaculatory fluid, also known as pre-cum. Finally, while withdrawal can potentially prevent pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. There are methods of preventing pregnancy that are more effective than withdrawal, however if a person has no other contraceptive option available, withdrawal is far better than no method at all.

If a person uses withdrawal and doesn’t pull out in time, they may be worried about pregnancy, HIV or another sexually transmitted disease (STD). In this case, there are things a person can do after having sex. First, if withdrawal failed, one option is to get emergency contraception (EC). EC can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, but it has to be taken as soon as possible and within five days of having unprotected sex. EC can be purchased at a pharmacy or from a local family planning clinic. In addition, a couple using withdrawal may want to get tested for HIV or other STDs, since withdrawal does not prevent STDs if one partner has one.

 

Remember, if two people are going to have vaginal-penile sex, its best to use a condom and another method of birth control to prevent an unintended pregnancy and STDs. But if people don’t have condoms or another contraceptive method, withdrawal is a good option. It’s certainly better than not using any protection at all, and next time, maybe they’ll be better prepared.

FAQs

Can withdrawal prevent a pregnancy and protect me from an STD?

If done consistently and correctly—meaning every time a person has sex—withdrawal offers some protection from pregnancy, which makes it better than not using any method at all. That said, the effectiveness rate for withdrawal is far lower than other contraceptive methods, as much as 30 percent lower in some cases. Withdrawal is not at all effective at preventing a sexually transmitted infection.

I’ve heard that people can get pregnant from something called “pre-cum.” What does that mean?

When a person gets pregnant from pre-cum or pre-ejaculatory fluid, this means they have gotten pregnant through a clear fluid that is released into the penis before semen. By itself, pre-ejaculatory fluid has no sperm. However, if there is sperm hiding in the penis that hasn’t left the body yet, pre-ejaculatory fluid may pick up that sperm and move it into the vagina, where it will continue to travel up to the uterus and fallopian tubes, long before ejaculation occurs. Pre-cum pregnancies are considered fairly rare. They are possible however, which is why withdrawal is not recommended as a primary form of birth control.

Parents

Young people should be familiar with different contraceptive methods before they become sexually active and need them. This ensures they have time to fully understand reproduction, how to prevent an unintended pregnancy and reduce their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Withdrawal is among the many contraceptive methods young people should learn about. This method involves one person removing their penis from their partner’s vagina to avoid ejaculating into the vagina during sex. Withdrawal is not the most effective contraceptive method, but if a young person has chosen to have sex and no other contraceptive option is available, withdrawal is a better method than none at all.

There are several factors that can affect the effectiveness of the withdrawal method. Withdrawal takes a lot of awareness and self-control, which can be very challenging. In some rare cases, couples who use withdrawal regularly may still get pregnant if sperm is present in the pre-ejaculatory fluid of the partner with a penis. Finally, while withdrawal can potentially prevent pregnancy, it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. It is important for young people to understand that there are methods of preventing pregnancy that are more effective than withdrawal, but again, if a person has no other option available, withdrawal is far better than no method at all.

If a person uses withdrawal and doesn’t pull out in time, they may be worried about pregnancy, HIV or another STD. In these cases, there are things a person can do after having sex. First, if withdrawal failed, one option is to get emergency contraception (EC). EC can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, but it has to be taken as soon as possible and within five days of having unprotected sex. EC can be purchased in a pharmacy or from a local family planning clinic. In addition, a couple using withdrawal may want to get tested for HIV or other STDs. Ultimately, using a more effective contraceptive method, and even multiple methods together (such as a condom and a hormonal method), is a more effective way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of getting an STD. However, if a young person has chosen to have sex and options that are more effective are not available, withdrawal will reduce the risk of pregnancy more than using nothing at all.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

When parents and caregivers engage in loving and supportive conversations with children about sexuality, it allows children to practice safe and healthy habits as they grow up. Bringing up withdrawal and other contraceptive methods as a topic even before it happens can be a useful way to let your child know that you are available for any questions or support, should they decide to become sexually active.

In some cases, children may come to you for assistance before you address them. Be open to hearing what they have to say, and provide them the products they need to effectively take care of themselves.

Below are some ways to start conversations on withdrawal and other contraceptive methods:

Discuss contraception as a general topic

Young people may often resort to withdrawal as a contraceptive method when they do not have access to more effective methods or believe they would get in trouble for having birth control. Open the conversation by asking your child what they know about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This will help you explore and understand what your child does or does not know. If necessary, direct them to resources that can give them more information about how to choose a method that would be best for them. If you want to support your child in finding and using a contraceptive method, make sure your child knows this, so they can come to you for support.

Educators

Teachers often avoid discussing withdrawal as a contraceptive method, or discourage students from using it entirely. Given the challenges that many young people have in accessing affordable and friendly sexual health services, it is important for teachers to provide a full picture of withdrawal and its effectiveness, especially for those who may be attracted to withdrawal as a regular practice. The withdrawal method is used during penile-vaginal sex and involves removing a person’s penis from another person’s vagina before the penis ejaculates or releases semen. When practiced consistently and correctly, withdrawal can be between 72 and 93 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

There are several factors that can affect the effectiveness of the withdrawal method. Some couples who use withdrawal as a pregnancy-prevention method may still get pregnant. In those rare cases, they may have gotten pregnant through pre-ejaculatory fluid or pre-cum. Pre-ejaculatory fluid does not contain sperm or semen, but it can mix with any excess sperm hiding in the penis and go into the vagina long before ejaculation happens. Though withdrawal can be reasonably effective if done consistently and correctly, it requires considerable self-awareness and control, and will not prevent sexually transmitted infections.

If a person uses withdrawal and doesn’t pull out in time or, they may be worried about pregnancy, HIV or another STD. In these instances, it is important that students know that there are things they can do after having sex. First, if withdrawal failed, one option is to get emergency contraception (EC). EC can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, but it has to be taken as soon as possible and within five days of having unprotected sex. EC can be purchased in a pharmacy or from a local family planning clinic. In addition, a couple using withdrawal may want to get tested for HIV or other STDs. Ultimately, students should know that using a more effective contraceptive method, and even multiple methods together (such as a condom and hormonal method), is a more effective way to prevent pregnancy and reduce the risk of an STD. When a young person has none of these more effective contraceptive methods available and still intends to have sex, it is important that they know that withdrawal will reduce the risk of pregnancy more than using nothing at all.

Discussion Questions

After watching the video with your class, process it using the following discussion questions:
  • What is the withdrawal method?
  • According to the video, what is one reason why a person might use withdrawal over another contraceptive method to prevent pregnancy?
  • If a person wanted to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, would withdrawal be a good method for them to use? Why or why not?
  • If a couple used withdrawal as a contraceptive method and it was not successful, what might they do if they were concerned about the risk of pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection?
  • According to the video, what is the most effective way a sexually active person could prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection?
  • If a couple was thinking about using withdrawal as a contraceptive method, what might be two to three things for them to keep in mind?

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