Experts Explain Why The Pull-Out Method Is So Dangerous, So Take Notes
One of the most personal decisions you are likely to make is what type of contraception (or which safe-sex practice) is right for you. It may not be a decision you make once, but many times throughout your life. It can depend on your current partner, personal preference, or whether or not pregnancy is something you're concerned about. The key is to make sure you're well-informed and making the best decision for you and your body. However, if you and your partner are using the pull-out method, then carefully consider why the pull-out method is so dangerous. Because it is not the safest method of birth control whatsoever, and taking care of your sexual health and well-being is an important form of self love.
If you aren’t exactly sure what the pull-out or withdrawal method is, Planned Parenthood says it’s exactly what it sounds like: "Pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation (aka cumming). If semen (cum) gets in your vagina, you can get pregnant. So, ejaculating away from a vulva or vagina prevents pregnancy.” However, they warn that this has to be done perfectly in order to have any efficacy. "You have to be sure to pull out before any semen comes out, every single time you have vaginal sex, in order for it to work." While that might sound pretty straightforward and convenient, this method comes with increased risks, experts say, which is why its increasing popularity among women is cause for concern.
According to a study released by the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics in 2017 and reported by CBS News, 60 percent of sexually active adolescent girls reported having used the withdrawal method. This is echoed by another 2017 study by the National Center for Health Statistics, in which researchers found that using the pull-out method "amongst unmarried men in America has nearly doubled between 2002 and 2015. In 2002, about 10 percent of unmarried men used the pull-out method, compared to 19 percent in 2015." On top of this, according to a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, “users of the withdrawal method experience the highest rates of contraceptive failure, with 20 percent ending in pregnancy within a year.”
Clearly, pulling out is becoming increasingly popular, but is it actually dangerous? Jillene Grover Seiver, Ph.D. and human sexuality expert, tells Elite Daily that it is. "Yes, it is dangerous. There are many more reliable methods that couples can use that carry a lower risk of pregnancy, STIs, and frustration," she explains. In fact, all of the experts I reached out to agreed with that. Here is what you need to know about the dangers of the pull-out method.
The Pull-Out Method Is Hard To Perform Perfectly
For some, the choice to use this method may simply come down to convenience. After all, it doesn’t require a prescription, and you don't need to buy anything. But while it might sound simple, the experts say it’s actually more complicated than some realize. “While ‘pulling-out’ sounds straightforward, it’s actually pretty difficult to control, particularly if a man is inexperienced or if he’s simply caught in the heat of the moment. In addition to this, the 20 to 30 percent of men who suffer from premature ejaculation across the U.S. make the pull-out method look even less reliable," Dr. Kim Langdon, clinical adviser at Medzino Health, tells Elite Daily.
This method requires a partner who has a high degree of control over their ejaculation, which is very difficult, according to Kelly J. Connell, M.S. Ed. and sexuality expert for My First Blush. “The partner with the penis cannot always control when they are going to ejaculate,” Connell tells Elite Daily. “Many times they think they can control it and then they cannot pull out in time and ejaculate inside their partner.”
It’s also important to remember that the temptation to not pull out may be strong. “It is very difficult to accomplish this method because it requires the man to consciously pull out when he is approaching the height of pleasure,” warns Seiver.
Increased Risk Of Pregnancy
One of the major risks of this form of birth control is that it’s not very reliable. According to Planned Parenthood, when practiced perfectly, “for every 100 women who use the pull-out method perfectly, four will get pregnant." However, as the experts explained, practicing this perfectly is very difficult, so in reality, 22 out of 100 women who use withdrawal get pregnant every year (about one in five), according to Planned Parenthood. Compare that to the use of an IUD, which, according to Planned Parenthood, is more than 99 percent effective. "That means fewer than one out of 100 people who use an IUD will get pregnant each year," their website reads. That’s a pretty stark difference.
“I would say to someone using this [pull-out] method that they are taking a huge risk for unplanned pregnancy and they are better off using contraception if they are going to have penis-in-vagina sex,” says Connell. “This method is just not reliable. No one has complete ejacultory control every time. It’s like Russian roulette. Sooner or later they won’t be able to pull out in time.
But lets say you believe your partner does have control over their ejaculation and you can trust them to resist the desire to not pull out. Does that mean you're in the clear? No, because that still doesn’t take into account the pregnancy risk associated with pre-cum. “The myth that you can’t get pregnant if he doesn’t come is simply not true,” says Dr. Langdon. “A man’s pre-cum can contain live sperm, so even if he’s got his pull-out technique down to a fine art, the risk of accidental pregnancy remains,” she warns.
While sperm being present in pre-cum is rare, it is still possible, explains Seiver. “If a recent ejaculation has occurred, and the man has not urinated since then, then the fluid secreted by the Cowper’s gland just prior to ejaculation can sweep sperm that are still in the urethra into the vagina, without the man having any sense that he needed to pull out before that.”
Increased Risk Of STI Transmission
If you're foregoing barrier protection, the risk of STI transmission increases, the experts warn. “If you’re relying on just the pull-out method, you can never be 100 percent sure that your partner does not have an STI," says Dr. Langdon. She warns, "chlamydia and gonorrhea should not be underestimated," as “20 percent of women with chlamydia go on to develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a major cause of infertility in women. In short, play it safe and use a condom.”
However, it must be noted that condoms — while they do protect against STIs that are transmitted via bodily fluid like HIV and Hepatitis C — don’t protect against all STIs that are spread by skin-to-skin contact and aren’t covered by a condom, including herpes and syphilis. "If a person has a herpes lesion that is on an area of the groin or pelvis that is not covered by the condom, then transmission from that lesion can occur," Fahimeh Sasan, D.O., assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, previously told SELF.
What The Experts Recommend Instead
If the experts don’t think pulling-out is a safe method, what do they suggest? “Condoms, as pulling out does not protect you from STIs. Oral contraceptive pills, and IUD, Depo[-Provera], basically anything else. Pulling out has a huge failure rate,” says Connell.
Dr. Langdon agrees. “The best piece of advice I give to all my patients is to just use a condom,” she says. “It is the only form of contraception that offers protection against accidental pregnancy and [most] STIs. Remember that you can speak to a nurse or health worker at any time about a variety of other contraception methods to find one suitable for you. Forget the rumors and the horror stories, get the facts from a professional to work out what’s best for you.”
Ultimately, it just comes down to being informed so that you can make the right decision for both you and your partner. That being said, it’s worth considering that all the experts agreed that pulling out is not the best option, because there's a lot at stake. At the end of the day, however, this is your — and your partner’s — choice. I think Dr. Langdon said it best when she concluded: “Never assume a sexual partner is OK with having unprotected sex. It is a huge amount of trust to be putting in one another, so make sure to communicate and always, always put your and your partner’s safety first.”