Studies have found that 12 percent of women who use the pull-out method as birth control do not use any other form of birth control and that the majority of sexually active women have used the pull-out method at some point in their lives. Planned Parenthood’s take on the matter is that the pull-out method isn’t as effective as other forms of birth control, but is better than nothing. With that in mind, when has “better than nothing” been an acceptable standard for really anything? Better than nothing is a nice way of saying “you can absolutely do better.” If someone called the food you made better than nothing, you’d be insulted. If someone said the safety precautions in place on an airplane were better than nothing, you’d be terrified. And yet, many women are out there using a form of birth control that’s just that – better than nothing.
One can understand some of the logic behind using this method. Holistically-minded individuals probably don’t want to pump their bodies full of hormones through other forms of birth control, like the pill or shot. Then there is all the fear around IUDs right now following the Mirena scandal and reports that their device caused “organ perforations.” You shudder at the thought. Condoms can decrease sensitivity and pleasure. And some forms just require a great memory – taking the pill every day requires little calendar reminders and alarms. What about the shot? That can be even harder to remember because it’s not a daily thing. So, you can see why some people prefer going the simple route with the pull-out method. Chances are though, they don’t know everything about it. Here are things you didn’t know about the pull-out method.
There is sperm in pre-ejaculation fluid
The idea behind the pull-out method is that the man will pull out just before releasing any bodily fluids. The problem is that ejaculation is not the only time during intercourse when a man releases bodily fluids. Don’t forget about pre-ejaculation fluids. While there may not be as much, some fluid does contain sperm. And of those, a good amount release sperm that is motile, meaning it’s ready to find its way up the cervix, into the uterus, and up those fallopian tubes. So just because your partner pulls out before he climaxes doesn’t mean he hasn’t released any baby-making stuff before that.
There can be leftovers
If you’re in the early stages of a relationship where you want to do it all of the time like rabbits, then you might not let much time pass at all between romps in the sack. In fact, you might finish, cuddle a little, and be back at it. You, as the woman, might know to get up and pee after sex to prevent UTIs. But is your partner doing the same? There can be some sperm left in his penis from the first round, which can be the first thing to enter your body when you go back for the second round. Couples with a particularly high sexual stamina need to make sure the man clears the pipes before re-engaging in another roll in the hay.
It’s pretty ineffective
No form of birth control can offer 100 percent efficacy. Even the pill isn’t perfect – roughly one out of 100 women who use the pill perfectly (same time, every single day, without fail) will become pregnant. Condoms are slightly less effective, with two out of every 100 people who use them perfectly still becoming pregnant. So you’ll never find something that’s a total guarantee. For liability issues, no manufacturer of any birth control can promise that. However, the pull-out method falls pretty far in the rankings when it comes to pregnancy prevention. The CDC reports that 22 percent of people who use it will face accidental pregnancy.
You must time it perfectly
In order for the pull-out method to work, you must time your partner’s withdrawal (or rather, he must time it) perfectly, every single time. If you have sex a lot, that’s a lot of chances for a mistake to happen. Studies find that most long-term couples only have sex once or twice a month, but 26 percent reported having it once a week. For those couples, they have to get it right four times a month. But there is not a promised and consistent timeframe on when a man finishes. The average range, according to some sex therapists, is between three and 13 minutes. That’s a massive range. And if your partner fluctuates a lot within that, there is plenty of opportunity for surprise ejaculation.
Even if it’s perfect, it’s not perfect
Maybe your partner knows his body pretty well now, and can time when he’ll ejaculate to a T (few men can actually do this, but for argument’s sake, we’ll say yours can). The issue is that, even when partners use this method perfectly, there is still a four percent failure rate. Perhaps that sounds low, until you consider the fact that if you A) want to use that method every single time and B) plan on having sex more than 100 times in your life, well…accidental pregnancy becomes a real risk for you. In the words of Roz from Frasier when she became accidentally pregnant and noted that birth control isn’t effective 100 out of 100 times: “I can’t beat those odds.”
He probably doesn’t know his history
“I’m fine.” “I’m clean.” “I’ve been careful.” “I would never put you at risk.” These are some things a man might say when he wants to get out of using a condom and instead use the pull-out method. That’s a beautiful sentiment that means absolutely nothing without the paperwork (i.e. clean and recent test results) to back it up. And it turns out that most men do not have that paperwork. Research finds that the majority of sexually active men have never been tested. Never. Non-Hispanic white men are some of the worst offenders in this group. So next time your partner says, “I’m clean,” know that, statistically speaking, he may have no idea whether or not that’s true.
He could be lying
You’d like to think that nobody would knowingly put you at risk of getting an STD. But then again, you have to ask yourself: do you think that every person you’ve met was a good person? Do you believe people are mostly honest? Perhaps it isn’t very optimistic to say that no, most people aren’t honest. But don’t let blind optimism land you with an STD. The fact is that one survey of several thousand individuals found that the majority of men would lie about having an STD to a sexual partner. So, between the high percentage of men who don’t know their sexual health and those who do but won’t tell the truth about it, the pull-out method is looking pretty dangerous.
Your ovulation app isn’t much help
Some couples believe they can successfully use the pull-out method because they track the woman’s ovulation, meaning they know when she is the least and most fertile. They try to avoid intercourse during her most fertile days and instead, opt to schedule it on her least fertile days. To track this, many women use ovulation tracking apps, which are meant to predict when a woman is fertile. Here’s the issue with that: doctors say that these are extremely inaccurate. How inaccurate? Well, they’re only right about 21 percent of the time. Whoa. So they’re wrong…most of the time. Unless you use an actual ovulation kit to test ovulation, you should not justify using the pull-out method because you “know when you’re fertile.”
Don’t let birth control scare you
Going back to the idea of holistic medicine, perhaps you’re afraid of using the pill because of the potential side effects. It is of course important to speak to your doctor about the right pill for your body and to be aware of the risks. But know that the most common side effects experienced are non-life-threatening, like bloating and spotting, and even these typically go away within two to three months of taking the pill. And while the IUD can have side effects as well, and some companies have recently been wrapped up in lawsuits surrounding their products, these are also rare, and often mild. With any of these side effects, it’s worth asking yourself what will disrupt your life more: these uncommon reactions or an unplanned pregnancy.
Or, an STD.
You can get birth control and he will use it
Perhaps some of your reasoning behind using the pull-out method is financial. There are fears that the pill or condoms get pricey. But, we can eliminate that misunderstanding right now. Planned Parenthood is a wonderful resource for this. If you don’t live near one, use the CDC’s directory to find your local health department that can likely get you a free or very low-cost birth control prescription. As for fear that men will reject you if you want them to use a condom, may we suggest you reject them? Any man who pressures you to put your health at risk doesn’t deserve your time, let alone to engage in a sexual act with you. Furthermore, most men will choose sex with a condom over no sex at all. Call their bluff and it will quickly fall apart.