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Pulling out

Pulling out (or the withdrawal method) is when the penis is taken out of the vagina before ejaculation (or cumming).  

Pulling out is one of the least reliable ways to prevent pregnancy because the penis has to be taken out of the vagina and moved away from the female’s genitals before any semen comes out. This can be difficult to do! 

Pulling out does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. So if you decide to use this method without using condoms, you and your partner will be at risk. 

What is pulling out?

It’s a natural form of birth control that involves taking the penis out of the vagina and away from the vulva (the female’s outside genitals) before any semen comes out. 

Can pulling out prevent pregnancy?

The idea is simple – if ejaculation happens outside of the vagina then sperm cannot reach the egg to fertilise it. But this doesn’t always work. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of pulling out?


  • It doesn’t involve any medication or devices. 

  • It is better than doing nothing at all. 


  • Pulling out is unreliable. Sperm can get into the vagina if the penis isn’t taken out in time or if pre-cum fluid has sperm in it (this can come out of a penis before ejaculation).  

  • It doesn’t protect you or your partner from STIs, including HIV – only condoms prevent pregnancy and STIs.  

  • It is not always easy to know whether sperm has entered the vagina. So you may think pulling out has worked when it hasn’t. So you might not realise when you need to use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. 

  • Research shows that 22 out of every 100 people who use pulling out as their choice of contraception will become pregnant. But only one out of every 100 people who use hormonal contraceptives, such as the pill or implant, get pregnant. 

What do we do if he pulls out too late?

You can use emergency contraception, which can prevent pregnancy if you take it within 3-5 days after having sex.  

If you and your partner decide to use pulling out it is useful to get some emergency contraception in advance so you can take it if you need it. But it’s a good idea to avoid taking emergency contraception too often – it is better to use a contraception method that is designed for regular use, like the pill, implant, IUD or injection.  

Let's talk about pulling out!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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Are there other forms of natural birth control?

Some people follow a woman’s menstrual cycle to work out when pregnancy is most likely to happen.  

This is called the rhythm method. It is another type of natural birth control, like pulling out. 

Some couples combine the rhythm method with pulling out (e.g. they only use pulling out during ovulation, as this is when pregnancy is most likely to happen). But sperm can live for up to seven days after ejaculation, so even if someone isn’t ovulating when they have sex, the sperm released into them may still be alive when their body later releases an egg and pregnancy can then occur.  

Natural birth control is one of the least reliable ways to prevent pregnancy, it also doesn’t protect you from STIs. It is only recommended for couples that wouldn’t mind becoming pregnant. 

If you are concerned about hormonal birth control – there are many reliable options including condoms and the copper IUD which do not involve hormones. 

What advice can I give to someone about pulling out?

If someone is using pulling out to prevent pregnancy, give them clear and accurate information, which you can find in the basics tab.  

It is a good idea to discuss the risks they are taking if they choose this birth control method and talk to them about other options so they have all the facts. But remember, the final decision is theirs – it’s important not to judge or they may feel less able to talk to you about their sexual health in the future. 

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  • Last updated: 21 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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