A couple discussing how effective the pull-out method is.

Is the pull-out method safe?

The short answer to the question is “no.” Not only does the pull-out method, like most types of birth control, not protect against STIs or STDs, but a significant amount of the time, it doesn’t protect against pregnancy that well either.

How effective is the pull-out method anyway?

Part of this has to do with execution – many people who put their faith in the pull-out method have occasional slip-ups, and couples who don’t manage to pull out before ejaculation every time run a 27% risk of pregnancy, though couples who do get it right every time have only a 4% chance of conception.

Is there a chance of conception if everything goes right?

If, during intercourse, your partner pulls out before ejaculation every time, it’s true that no semen from ejaculation gets into your body. But pre-ejaculate, which is present throughout intercourse instead of just at the end, can also carry sperm. It’s in a much lower concentration, and studies show that it isn’t always there – which may be why the success rate on pulling out when you do it perfectly is actually relatively high – but it is still there.

What are the benefits?

There are a lot of things that are attractive about the pull-out method – it’s free, it doesn’t require any planning ahead, and it doesn’t put any hormones into your body. On the other hand, it requires a lot of trust in your partner’s self-control, and even when it’s done perfectly, it carries about a 1 in 25 chance of pregnancy.

The bottom line

If you want to make sure that you do not conceive, the pull-out method isn’t 100% effective. However, using the pull-out method along with fertility tracking, and avoiding the pull-out method during your fertile times can help cut down on the chances that you will get pregnant. If you have questions about preventing pregnancy and are wondering what sort of birth control options would be best for you – and there are a lot of options available – be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to learn more.

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