Overview of Withdrawal

The withdrawal method of birth control, also known as coitus interruptus, involves withdrawing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. In theory, this prevents sperm from being deposited in the vagina and subsequently fertilizing an ovum.

How It Works

Typically, a couple has penile-vaginal intercourse until the penis is withdrawn from the vagina when ejaculation is impending. A person must rely on their own ability to sense forthcoming ejaculation in order to practice this method. While some people do have ejaculatory control, others do not which can lead to not practicing this method consistently. Even though ejaculation may not occur in the vagina, the release of pre-ejaculate, which is typically released just before ejaculation will often go unnoticed by both partners. Pre-ejaculate is unlikely to release viable sperm for a single act of intercourse, but may contain STI producing organisms. 


Typical use: 73%

Perfect use: 96% 

How to Use This Method

  • If both partners choose to have multiple acts of intercourse, before each insertion, it is recommended the person with a penis urinate and wipe the tip of the penis to remove any sperm remaining from a previous ejaculation.
  • The penis should be removed prior to ejaculation and ejaculation should occur away from your partner’s genitals.

Withdrawal is ineffective in protecting partners from STIs and HIV. However, withdrawal is a better method of contraception as compared to using no method at all. 


  • No cost
  • No chemicals or devices
  • Always available
  • No side effects
  • A good back-up method when no other form of birth control is available 


  • High failure rate
  • Interruption may diminish couple's sexual pleasure
  • No protection from STI
  • Person with penis must urinate between ejaculations to be effective
  • Person with penis must know when ejaculation is about to occur to pull out in time
  • May not be used successfully in certain sexual dysfunctions (early or unpredictable ejaculation)
  • Requires partner cooperation