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Q:

I've heard that the pull-out method is as effective as a condom. Is this true?

A:

Although the pull-out method (also called withdrawal method or coitus interruptus) is a method used by many, it is not nearly as effective as a condom at preventing unintended pregnancy or STIs. When examining the efficacy of contraceptive methods, we need to look at both perfect use rates and typical use rates. Perfect use rates are used when we aren’t considering human error. Both the pull-out method and condoms are used by humans. They automatically have some human error to consider.

With the pull-out method, the risk for error is much higher - it takes perfect timing, control, and the reliance that there are not any active sperm in the pre-cum (which isn’t a reliable assumption). With condoms, it is much easier to use them correctly and consistently; check the expiration date, store them correctly, use lube, and practice putting them on so that they are easy to use when you need them.

So what are the rates? The perfect use rate for the pull-out method is 96%, compared to 98% for condoms. Yet, we aren’t using the pull-out method without human error. The typical use rate for the pull-out method goes down to 73% (of every 100 women who use this, 27 will become pregnant), compared to the typical use for condoms, which is 82%. You’re much better off using condoms than the pull-out method if you want to be protected against STIs or unintended pregnancy.

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