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Sexual and Reproductive Health

Withdrawal (pulling out)

​What is withdrawal?

Withdrawal is used during sex to reduce the risk of pregnancy. Withdrawal is when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation (cum). A person must not ejaculate near the genitals. Pregnancy can occur if the cum is near the opening of the vagina and sperm gets in.

How well does withdrawal work?

  • With typical use (this means not following the exact directions) withdrawal is 78% effective.
  • With perfect use (this means you follow the exact directions all the time) withdrawal is 96% effective.
  • Don’t use withdrawal if pregnancy would be hard for you or you have a medical condition where pregnancy poses an unacceptable health risk.
  • If withdrawal fails (cum near genitals or in the vagina), get emergency contraception as soon as possible to help prevent pregnancy.
  • Withdrawal doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV.
  • Use a condom every time you have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal) to lower your risk of STIs and HIV.

Who might choose withdrawal as a method of birth control?

You might choose withdrawal as a method of birth control if you:

  • don’t have another method of birth control (like condoms or hormonal birth control)
  • can’t afford birth control (many sexual health clinics offer some types of birth control for no cost for those who qualify)​
  • have religious, cultural, or health reasons for not using other birth control methods
  • want to improve the effectiveness of other methods of birth control by adding withdrawal
  • don’t have sex often

How do I use withdrawal?

  • A person must know when they are about to ejaculate.
  • When a person is almost ready to ejaculate, they need to pull the penis out of the vagina and away from the genitals.
  • After ejaculating, wash your hands before touching your partner’s genitals.

What are the benefits of withdrawal?

  • It’s better than using no birth control at all.
  • It’s available in any situation.

What are the disadvantages of withdrawal?

  • It requires self-control for both partners. It can be very hard to stop and withdraw the penis before ejaculation.
  • If a person has trouble with premature ejaculation, it’s not a good idea to use withdrawal as a method of birth control.
  • It might decrease pleasure for both partners.

What else is important to know about consent, sexual activity, and birth control?

  • You have the right to decide to have sex or not. Talk with your partner or partners about consent.
  • There’s an 85% chance of becoming pregnant within one year, if no birth control is used for vaginal sex.
  • Use a condom or barrier every time you have sex (oral, vaginal, anal). Condoms help prevent pregnancy, STIs, and HIV.
  • You can lower your risk of HIV by taking an HIV prevention pill every day. Many Albertans can get it for free. Visit HIV PrEP to find out more.
  • Transgender and gender diverse people who have a uterus can use hormonal birth control. It can help prevent pregnancy and make periods lighter and less painful.

Where can I find more information?

If you have questions, need to find a sexual health clinic near you, or want more information, call Health Link at 811 anytime, day or night, to talk to a registered nurse.

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