Does the withdrawal method really work?
Pull-out, rhythm, coitus interruptus… whatever you call the withdrawal method there’s a good chance you’ve relied on it at least once to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood around 35 million couples worldwide have done the same, and the latest UN data shows that it’s more popular in Europe than any other continent.
No pill to take, always available and relatively hassle free, it has become some women’s contraception of choice. But when it comes to reliability it doesn’t exactly come out on top. There’s been a new wave of fertility tracker apps recently aiming to creating a safer solution. However, as sperm can survive in the womb for up to seven days, they’re not without their risks.
We spoke to six women who use the withdrawal method to find out why they’re playing contraception roulette…
‘I’ve been using the withdrawal method with my boyfriend for around a year now. We both decided to get tested for STIs first, just to be safe. I still feel relatively uncomfortable with using it as a long-term solution, but honestly, it’s so difficult to get seen at my local GP to discuss contraceptive methods that aren’t the pill. The withdrawal method has become the compromise.’
‘I often forget to take my pill, consequently using the withdrawal method by default. I know it’s irresponsible but I have a very busy life and forget. I hate how hormonal contraception affects me.’
‘It wasn’t really my choice. I was on the pill and it didn’t agree with me at all so my boyfriend at the time “suggested” that I came off it, which I was very happy to do. He refused to use condoms, so we used the withdrawal method. I hated it, as it meant that his orgasm was the only one that counted, and it led to many frustrating moments for me. However, I was desperate for a baby, so a part of me didn’t mind. It didn’t take too long of using this method before I found myself pregnant. I was delighted. Him, not so much.’
‘Over the last ten years I’ve tried pretty much every contraception you can name. The pill, the implant, the copper coil, more pills, the hormonal coil and even a diaphragm. Nothing has worked for me. Hormones alter my mood and sense of self extremely profoundly and I just can’t function. The coils were constant agony and I became allergic to spermicide using the diaphragm. I decided to go natural and now rely 100% on a fertility monitor. I have zero side effects and feel completely in charge of my body.’
‘My boyfriend and I are frequent users of the withdrawal method because we’re incredibly badly organised. I know that it’s dangerous and stupid but we still do it. My boyfriend doesn’t like the idea of the implant, I’m scared by the concept of the coil and pill-wise I’m a total disaster. I’m constantly losing my pill packet, forgetting which days I’ve missed out, and on one occasion took five tablets in one day. My partner and I always realise that we’re unprotected just seconds before climax and are forced to resort to the pull out method at the last minute. We try to use condoms when we can, but the sex doesn’t feel as good. I’m well aware that it’s unreliable, irresponsible and just asking for trouble but the withdrawal method hasn’t failed me yet and so I guess I just don’t feel a need to stop.’
‘My boyfriend and I used the withdrawal method for two years successfully, until I fell pregnant with my son. These days we use condoms as it’s not worth the risk. You can push it to the back of your mind but somewhere down the line it’ll happen.’
If your contraception isn’t working for you, talk to your GP about the many other options available.