Contraception Through Withdrawal

This is also called coitus interruptus or ‘being careful’. It involves the man withdrawing his penis from the woman’s vagina before he ejaculates, so that as few sperm as possible ever enter the vagina. Withdrawal is thought to be still the third most popular form of reversible contraception in this country (after the pill and the sheath). Advantages of the withdrawal method are that it is readily available at any time; requires no medical intervention, hormones or mechanical devices; and costs nothing.

Disadvantages are that it is an unsatisfactory conclusion to lovemaking, and that it has a high failure rate. The sex act is designed by God to be completed with the husband’s penis inside the wife’s vagina; the time of togetherness after orgasm, while the physical union is still complete, is one of the most precious parts of lovemaking. Occasionally it may be desirable to forego this full satisfaction, for instance if the woman is ill and cannot take part in full intercourse, but constantly to cut the sex act short every time you make love is frustrating to man and wife and not to be recommended. It can prevent the woman from achieving orgasm, and can be very difficult psychologically for the man, whose urge before ejaculation is to penetrate deeper rather than to withdraw It is particularly difficult for any man who suffers from ejaculatory problems, or who has poor ejaculatory control.

When used consistently, withdrawal has a theoretical failure rate of 16 per 100 woman/years. The actual failure rate is 23 per 100 woman/years. Most failures result from inconsistent or incomplete use of the method in the heat of the moment. Consequently it is not a good method if it is important that you don’t conceive.

You may nevertheless find withdrawal a useful method for a limited time, for instance when you have gone on holiday without your cap, or when you are trying to space babies. If you do use this method occasionally, make sure that any fluid is wiped from the tip of the penis before it enters the vagina. Although it is unlikely that pregnancy will result from such a small amount of semen, it is still possible, especially if the man has recently had an orgasm as those few drops will then be full of sperm. If you withdraw too late, then an immediate application of spermicidal foam will somewhat diminish the chances of conception, but many sperm are already likely to be inside the cervix and the foam will not reach them. The main conclusion is that withdrawal is an unsatisfactory method of birth control, which is more successful at increasing the gap between pregnancies than avoiding them altogether.