The pull-out method is to birth control methods sort of like tomatoes are to fruit: People aren't even really sure if it counts as one. Nevertheless, a new study published by the National Center for Health Statistics has found that the pull-out method is making a comeback. In fact, from 2002 to 2015, its popularity almost doubled among married men, with 18.8 percent instead of just 9.8 percent using it the last time they had sex. But that's probably not a good thing — because it's not totally effective, to put it mildly.
"I am not a big fan of withdrawal as a form of birth control," Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, Urologist at Orlando Health, tells Bustle. "Even if it may protect you against a pregnancy, it does not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. You are not immune to HIV, HPV, herpes or any other disease than can be spread through sex. From a birth control standpoint, the CDC estimates withdrawal has a 22 percent failure rate. Most of the population underestimates the failure rate." (FYI, failure rate is the proportion of women who will get pregnant in a year of using this method.)
The only time the pull-out method might be a good idea is when it's used in combination with other forms of birth control to minimize your risk of pregnancy even more, says Brahmbhatt.
That's what Dana, 29, did. After the Pill made her sick and her uterus expelled two IUDs, she decided to rely solely on the pull-out method and the rhythm method — which, it should be noted, is a gamble as well, with a 25 percent failure rate. Nevertheless, the combination has worked for her — and had an unexpected bonus.
"It helped me be more in tune with my body and my partner's body," she tells Bustle. "He had to be really aware of when he was about to orgasm and I had to be respectful of him if he said he was close and I had to stop or slow down. So hearing his cues and him knowing his body really well was essential for the method to work."
Eva, 41, has also managed to avoid unwanted pregnancy using the pull-out method for 10 years with her current primary partner and seven years before with her ex-husband. "I have unprotected sex with only one man who doesn't have an issue with premature ejaculation at all," she tells Bustle.
But these women are the lucky ones. The pull-out method does not work so well for everyone. In fact, it's thanks to an attempt at the pull-out method that Jessica, 35, has her daughter. "I tracked my cycle with an app on my phone, and it was actually super accurate," she tells Bustle. "So one thing led to another, and I told him, 'We're actually good, just make sure you pull out.' ... All evidence indicated he was successful. ... That's why I always say it's maybe not the best method to use."
Marie*, 37, also got pregnant using the pull-out method. "I thought he'd pulled out in time once I said something, but he hadn't," she tells Bustle.
So, in short, the pull-out method is better than nothing, but its reputation as barely even a birth control method is probably well-deserved. The most effective birth control methods are (in order) Mirena IUDs, vasectomy, tubal ligation, Copper T IUDs, Depo-Provera, the pill, the patch, and the Nuva Ring, according to Options for Sexual Health. If you want to avoid getting pregnant, you're far better off using one of those instead. And if STIs are also a concern, you're still going to want to use condoms, no matter what you're using to prevent pregnancy.