If you have intercourse with someone who has a penis, perhaps you have heard of the “pull-out” or “withdrawal method.”This is a technique that some people believe will protect them against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections by removing the penis before ejaculation.
Perhaps you were like me, as a young and idiotic sexually active person, and you perused some of the more reputable safer sex websites and noticed that the probability of becoming pregnant while using the pull-out method was really not THAT high.
Planned Parenthood explains that the statistical probability of becoming pregnant if withdrawal is practiced correctly every time is 4/100 and 27/100 when practiced incorrectly.
Perhaps you are, like I was, one of those people who thought, “It won’t happen to me!” Or, “My partner knows exactly WHEN to remove his penis and will never make a mistake, miscalculate or forget!”
Well folks, it did happen to me. And while I trusted my partner, I was still faced with a difficult decision that could have been easily prevented by using a more effective, consistent form of birth control.
The situation forced me to think — why would I want to use anything that was LESS successful?
Would I buy a car that crashed in 27 out of every 100 times it was driven? Would I let a doctor who failed at brain surgery 27 percent of the time operate on me?
I hope it makes you think, too. While you’re considering, let’s break down the basics.
Semen, as you likely know, includes sperm — the squiggly tadpole-shaped DNA carriers that can create a zygote if they find a female egg to penetrate. (The first step in the process that causes females to become pregnant!)
Semen is also made up of other bodily fluids and organelles, including viruses, bacteria and parasites.
When semen finds its way to another person's mucous membranes — like the ones lining a vagina, anus or mouth — organelles are able to easily penetrate this membrane and access the bloodstream.
This means that in addition to causing pregnancy, semen can pass sexually transmitted infections from one person to another.
“So what?!” you say, “I don't need to use a barrier method to protect myself. I am very careful about NOT letting anyone ejaculate inside of me. No sperm, no foul, right?”
A penis does not go from zero to orgasm immediately — although it sometimes may feel like it does — but instead is erect and secreting pre-ejaculate long before the big release.
So even if you believe a person removes their penis before orgasm, if he has been inside of you for any amount of time, he has still deposited plenty of pre-ejaculate fluid — sperm, STI and all.
Therefore, even practiced “correctly,” the pull-out method only prevents SOME semen from reaching an egg to fertilize, or your bloodstream to colonize an infection. You are still at risk of pregnancy or STI.
OK, so you didn’t use a condom, and your partner used the withdrawal method. What do you do now?
GET TESTED for STIs. If you are concerned about pregnancy, and the intercourse happened within the last 72 hours, you may consider using Plan B.
Investigate options for safer sex practices. If your partner is reluctant to use a condom, there are many other options to prevent pregnancy and several alternative barrier methods as well.
Check out the Planned Parenthood website for more information on your MANY options. Feel free to post questions below as well! But take it from me — it’s worth the conversation and the consideration.
Reviewed March 1, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
1) “Withdrawal (Pull-Out Method.)” Planned Parenthood.Accessed February 26, 2016.
2) "What Is In Semen." New Health Guide. Accessed February 25, 2016.