Here's Why The Pull-Out Method Isn't The Most Reliable

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Whether you've been getting it on for a while or you're just starting to think about having sex, you may be wondering if the pull-out method is a reliable form of birth control. In an ideal world, everyone would have access to accurate and empowering sexual education. But according to Planned Parenthood, only 24 states require public schools to teach sex ed. And of the schools that are mandated to teach sex ed, less than half teach all 16 of the topics the Center For Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) considers "essential components" of sex education. This lack of information can lead to confusion, especially where effective birth control methods are concerned. And no matter who you are, learning about the best birth control options for you and your body can help you and your partner feel protected as you turn up the heat.

"The pull-out method is not a reliable birth control method," Dr. Sherry Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology and She-ology, The She-quel, tells Elite Daily. "This method has a high failure rate. Of all the choices available to women for birth control, this is the least reliable."

Planned Parenthood defines pulling out as "pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation, keeping semen away from the vagina." However, Dr. Ross shares that this method isn't always successful in keeping semen out of the vagina. In fact, it's possible for the penis to instead release "pre-cum," or the fluid released before full ejaculation, into the vagina. "The liquid may contain active and viable sperm that can easily get you pregnant," Dr. Ross says.


As Dee Stacey, a certified sexual health educator for Blume, a self-care and period product company shares, a single ejaculation can release anywhere between 250,000,000 to 500,000,000 sperm. "That's a lot of sperm, and we only need one, [to get pregnant,]" Stacey tells Elite Daily. "If a person is a second late to pulling out or doesn't realize they have partially ejaculated, that's already millions of sperm that are inside their partner's body."

Even if you and your partner previously agreed on the pull-out method before completing sexual intercourse, Stacey shares that in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to go off-book. "Adhering strictly to this method requires an immense amount of trust and control from both partners," Stacey says. "Let's be honest: In that moment, often our priorities go elsewhere."

Though you may totally trust your partner, Gigi Engle, sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A guide to Sex, Love, and Life, says that anyone can easily screw up the pull-out method. "Here's the thing: Any birth control method that relies on [solely] humans is going to have faults," Engle tells Elite Daily. "This is why condoms are only about 80% effective, whether it be forgetting to pinch the tip, not pulling out fast enough, or not using lube and having breakage. Human error messes them up."

While you and your partner may have relied on pulling out in the past, if you're not planning a pregnancy, the experts share that any other form of birth control will be more effective.

"Any method of contraception is better," Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine, tells Elite Daily. "For anyone relying on pull-out for contraception, see your health care provider for a much more reliable method."

According to Dr. Minkin, if you don't have a regular healthcare provider or you're not sure if your birth control is covered on your insurance, your local Planned Parenthood can get you set up with a more reliable form of birth control. Whether it's the pill, patch, IUD, arm implant, vaginal ring, shot, or something else, finding a birth control that works for you can keep you and your partner feel more protected during sex.


"Everybody is different, and what matters most is finding a method of birth control that works well for each individual's life and their needs," Stacey says. "There are tons of options out there, all of which are extremely reliable." Stacey adds that if you're unsure of which birth control works best for your body, trying out different kinds can be helpful. "Don't be afraid to try a few options before settling into one that feels right," Stacey says.

In addition to medical birth control, Dr. Ross shares that barrier methods like condoms, diaphragms, internal condoms (often called "female condoms"), or cervical caps are also more reliable than pulling out. "Barrier methods are not as reliable in preventing pregnancy, but are alternatives for women who are sensitive to the hormonal effects of other birth control options," Dr. Ross says.

Of course, if your partner finished inside of you and you're not on birth control, or you tried the pull-out method and feel nervous about it, emergency contraceptives can lower your risk of becoming pregnant after having sex. Though "Morning After" pills, like Plan B One-Step or Next Choice One Dose, are the most effective if taken within 24 hours after having unprotected sex, they can be taken for up to 72 hours or three days. Additionally, getting checked for STIs at your health care provider or Planned Parenthood after having unprotected sex can help you stay in tune with your body.

When it comes to your sex life, you get to decide what's right for you and your body. However, the pull-out method is not the most reliable form of birth control when it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancies. If you want to learn more about effective contraceptives, try talking to your health care provider or hitting up your local Planned Parenthood. No matter who you are, you deserve birth control that has you fully protected.


Dr. Sherry Ross, women’s health expert and author of She-ology and She-ology, The She-quel

Dee Stacey, certified sexual health educator for Blume

Gigi Engle, sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A guide to Sex, Love, and Life


Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB/GYN at Yale-New Haven Hospital and clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine