Using the Withdrawal Method as a Viable Form of Birth Control

Prior to modern medicine there were a number of ways in which birth control was practiced, one of which was of course the withdrawal method. For centuries it was perhaps the most reliable method of preventing conception, other than complete abstinence, and even today this method is still commonly practiced in many cultures around the world.

Common Terminology

The principle behind the withdrawal method is to prevent sperm from entering the vagina by pulling the penis out of the woman’s vagina just prior to ejaculation. For this reason, it is often referred to as the ‘pull-out method.’ However, the medical name for this method of contraception is ‘coitus interruptus’ which quite literally translates as ‘interrupted intercourse’ and there is some amount of historical evidence to suggest that it has been practiced for several millennia.

Historical Evidence Dates Back Thousands of Years

Pulling out prior to ejaculation is not a new practice, by any means, as it has been referenced in the Torah which was recorded at least 2,500 years ago. Even so, the Torah was most assuredly passed down in oral tradition for hundreds of years prior to the actual ‘writing.’ In fact, some historians believe that ancient civilizations such as the Greeks and Romans also used coitus interruptus because of their preference for smaller families. Unfortunately, the references are scant and there is insufficient evidence to suggest that the withdrawal method was widely used amongst the ancients or that other civilizations understood this as a method of preventing pregnancy.

How this Method can be Compromised

There has been a certain amount of controversy over the effectiveness of the withdrawal method due to pre-ejaculate fluid that usually contains sperm cells. Although this can compromise the effectiveness of this method to a certain degree, there have been a number of small scale studies which indicate that there are insufficient viable sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid to cause conception. In fact, the consensus appears to be that the effectiveness is compromised only because the pre-ejaculate fluid ‘picks up’ sperms from previous ejaculations which is how viable spermatozoa are actually present.

Preventing Compromised Ejaculates

Statistically, there is a 4% failure rate inherent in the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy which some scientists and medical researchers believe is directly linked to the presence of spermatozoa from previous ejaculations. In other words, this rate of failure would decrease if proper precautions were taken in between acts of intercourse. Some studies suggest that the male should urinate to clear the urethra of sperm as well as to wash any parts of the body or other objects which have come in contact with ejaculates in order to prevent introducing sperm cells when touching the woman’s vagina in subsequent sexual encounters.

A Few Interesting Statistics

Although there are methods of birth control which have a much higher success rate, there are a number of cultural, religious and assorted socio-economic reasons why pulling out prior to ejaculation is still practiced in many areas of the world. As recently as the 1990’s, studies indicated that an amazing 16% of couples in Western Asia practiced coitus interruptus as a primary method of birth control while 3% of couples worldwide relied on this method. In any event, there are more reliable methods of preventing conception, but some couples still rely solely on the withdrawal method.

Whether sexual intercourse is a spontaneous, ‘spur-of-the-moment’ act with no condoms or other contraceptive devices available or if withdrawal is practiced for religious or cultural reasons, there is at least a 96% success rate if proper precautions are taken. However, be aware of the fact that there is one thing the withdrawal method cannot do and that is to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Perhaps if it would be best to practice monogamy if relying solely on coitus interruptus!