Mayo Clinic Health Library

Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus)

Updated: 03-14-2012

Definition

The withdrawal method of contraception, also known as coitus interruptus, is the practice of withdrawing the penis from the vagina and away from a woman's external genitals before ejaculation to prevent pregnancy. The withdrawal method helps prevent sperm from entering the vagina.

Using the withdrawal method for birth control requires self-control. Even then, the withdrawal method as typically used isn't an especially effective form of birth control. Sperm may enter the vagina if withdrawal isn't properly timed or if pre-ejaculation fluid contains sperm. The withdrawal method doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

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Why it's done

The withdrawal method of contraception to prevent pregnancy has several benefits:

  • It's free and readily available
  • Has no side effects
  • Doesn't require a fitting or prescription

Some couples choose to use the withdrawal method because they don't want to use other contraceptive methods.

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Risks

Using the withdrawal method to prevent pregnancy doesn't pose any direct risks, but it doesn't offer protection from sexually transmitted diseases. It requires considerable self control to interrupt coitus at the peak of excitement and some couples feel that withdrawal disrupts sexual pleasure. Also, some men may have difficulty predicting when they will ejaculate.

As many as 22 out of 100 women who practice the withdrawal method for one year will get pregnant.

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What you can expect

To use the withdrawal method:

  • Properly time withdrawal. When a man feels he's about to ejaculate, he must withdraw his penis from the woman’s vagina. Make sure that ejaculation occurs away from the woman’s genitals.
  • Take precautions before having sex again. If you plan to have sex again within a short period of time, make sure the man urinates and cleans off the tip of his penis first. This will help remove any remaining sperm from the previous ejaculation.

If ejaculation isn't properly timed and you're concerned about pregnancy, consult your health care provider about emergency contraception.

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