The “Pull and Pray” Method Works About as Well as a Condom for Preventing Pregnancy

Daven Hiskey 35
Today I found out that the “Pull and Pray” method statistically is just about as effective as condoms for preventing pregnancy.

Indeed, according to Dr. John Guillebaud in his book Contraception: Your Questions Answered, some of the lowest birth rates in history pop up around cultures whose primary method of contraception is the pull and pray method.

This method, also known as “Coitus Interruptus” or the “withdrawal method”, was once one of the most popular methods of preventing pregnancy, but in recent times has been cast aside in many cultures.  It turns out though, as long as you get the “pull” part right, there really isn’t much praying necessary.  According to research done in 2008 at the Guttmacher Institute in New York, the withdrawal method, when executed perfectly, is 96% effective for preventing pregnancy.  For comparison, using a condom, when done perfectly, is 98% effective and oral contraception has a “perfect use” rate of 99.7% effective.

Now this is when all three methods are done “perfectly”, so what about in actual practice with everyday people?  The pull and pray method is roughly 82% effective while using a condom is roughly 83% effective, so you are only getting a 1% improvement for your money and effort.  The pill, in contrast, does offer a much better “actual use” rate of about 96%.

So what gives?  Why is withdrawal working just as well as condoms?  It turns out that, according to recent studies, pre-ejaculate almost never contains any sperm.  The few times sperm did show up in the studies, they tended to be immobile and clumped together, so basically dead or completely incapable of impregnating anything.  This is because the only way sperm can get into the pre-ejaculate is if it was already in the urethra from a previous ejaculation, due to the fact that the Cowper’s gland contains no sperm.  Thus, as long as the man has either peed since the last time he ejaculated or it has simply been a while since that time, which probably means he’s peed at some point anyways,  the withdrawal method is extremely effective as a birth control method.

It’s also arguably easier to execute this method “perfectly”, achieving closer to the 96% effective rate, than it is with condoms, with the failure rate of condoms typically coming from the condom breaking.  The primary cause of failure with the pull and pray method lies in the cases where the person executes the praying part perfectly, after the fact, but didn’t manage the “pull” part of the method, which is of course the most important bit; though on failure of that, the praying probably doesn’t hurt. ;-)

Bonus Facts:

  • Worldwide about 3% of couples rely on the withdrawal method as their primary means of contraception, though almost 52% of women report that they have used the withdrawal method at some point in their lives and among the surveyed 21% said they had used this withdrawal method in the last month.
  • Previous to the Roman Empire, evidence suggests that the withdrawal method was the primary form of contraception used.  This fell out of popularity with the Romans who favored other methods available at the time, most of which have been lost to history.  After the fall of the Roman Empire around the 400s, all methods of contraception fell out of practice in the western world due to Christianity who saw it as sinful.  Around the 1800s, however, the withdrawal method saw a huge resurgence and was the primary form of contraception in the world until methods such as the condom and the pill were introduced in the 20th century.
  • The oldest documented use of the withdrawal method to avoid pregnancy was the story of Onan in the Torah, believed to have been written around 2500 years ago.

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35 Comments »

  1. Kratos330 February 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    So… it’s true, When in doubt pull out.

  2. Don't Believe It February 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    I have two children via the pull and pray method, but no condom babies. You know what they call people who rely on pull and pray? Parents.

  3. Ruby February 24, 2010 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Let’s not forget – pull & pray doesn’t work for gonaherpahivasyphilitis.

    Condoms block other things than sperm.

  4. unforgiven247 February 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    Got a question… I slept with two different men…one I used the pull and pray method and the other there was nothing to stop me from getting pregnant. I’m not sure which one is closer to my conception date because they were unforgivenably close together… So is this method really worth not worrying about or is it likely I have no clue who my babies dad is?

  5. Luis March 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    My health book showed the withdrawl method was 80% reliable. I’m surprised only 3% of people said they rely on it. My wife and I have used the withdrawl method for about 8 years. One month we decided to try to have a baby and were successful. I had thoughts that we may have trouble getting pregnant because there were no accidental babys over all those years, but getting pregnant after the first try proved that wrong.

  6. OnTehOtherSide June 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Teh key word is execution. If you don’t pull out in time, you pay… for 18 yrs and that is the hardest part. Also unforgiven247: ur a cumdumpster. herr durr.

  7. bullsht December 22, 2010 at 5:41 am - Reply

    Umm, no. Bad advice. “Pre-ejaculate almost never contains any sperm” you say. Yeah, but “almost never” is not “never.” Why would you take that chance?

    Shame on you for giving people faulty information.

    Also, wouldn’t you be a little worried about STIs?

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven December 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm - Reply

      @bullshit: “almost never is not never”: It helps to read the next sentence before commenting: “The few times sperm did show up in the studies, they tended to be immobile and clumped together, so basically dead or completely incapable of impregnating anything.”

      “Shame on you for giving people faulty information”: Yep, who’s ever heard of scientifically gathered information being accurate anyways? Personally, I like to only rely on completely subjective data that I heard from a guy I know who knows a guy who one time thought something the opposite of what the scientific data showed.

      “Also, wouldn’t you be a little worried about STI’s?”: This article wasn’t about sexually transmitted diseases, unless you consider kids to be a sexually transmitted disease, which my brother constantly tells me is the case. ;-) It was simply an article pointing out the interesting fact that the pull and pray method, when done properly, is actually a pretty effective method of birth control, which I found fascinating and thought other people might as well. In the coming zombie apocalypse, when condoms and other such methods of contraception aren’t readily available, this will be good information to know. ;-)

  8. Lydia December 29, 2010 at 8:21 pm - Reply

    My story is very similar to Luis’. My boyfriend and I would always use the withdrawal method when we were dating – we knew each other to be free of any diseases, and we trusted one another to stay an help if we DID end up with a pregnancy. After many years of sex that way, we ended up married, and wanting a baby. Well, after so many years of never having gotten pregnant without any use of commercial contraceptive, we were relatively sure one of us could easily just be incapable of fertility. Lo and behold, years after our first attempt, our Kara is starting third grade and our second is on its way.
    Interestingly, all the couples I know who have had trouble conceiving have all relied on birth control pills before deciding to try for a baby. I’d like to see a study performed on any possible adverse side effects of contraceptive pills.

  9. Stu8080 December 30, 2010 at 11:41 am - Reply

    Everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that the hard bit is the pull… The major caveat is that its only “when executed perfectly”.

    If your sex is so mechanical that you are constantly evaluating when that point is then, personally, i think that becoming a parent is going to be a blessing to you, you need to find a girl who wants to do it with you more than once!

    Seriously though, this is bad advice. If you ever had to apologise for not waiting for her, then you know you will have to apologise for not pulling out in time.

    • CaptButtNakid September 26, 2013 at 9:43 am - Reply

      There’s nothing ‘mechanical’ about realizing you are on the proverbial point of no-return! If you cannot tell when you’re about to let loose, then you should be forbidden from sex and practice masturbation until you get a clue.

      My GF-who-became-wife and I alternated condoms, pills AND pull and pray in time together, the only failure came when she deliberately went off the pill without telling me one time. The next child was on purpose, after a long period of relying on pullout. The Method works great, as long as you, the man, have enough control over your dick.

  10. JR January 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    i used pull n pray alot… just gota have a guy w PERFECT timing… im not prego yet…..

  11. Reki June 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Wow, really? As it turns out, condoms do not break as often as they say they do when used correctly. You kept that one in your wallet for a month? Throw it away. That one will most likely break. FRESH or NEW condoms don’t break easily, despite what they tell you.

    1) If they are too old, they will break. Its YOUR fault.
    2) If you don’t use enough lube, or don’t stop when you need more, they will break. It’s YOUR fault.
    3) If they are not rolled on right or pulled out right after, they can leak. It’s YOUR fault.
    4) If you put your penis back in after taking off the condom, why even wear one to begin with?

    In other words, condoms work. It’s the idiots that don’t know how to use them that don’t.

  12. Treat Keratosis Pilaris July 1, 2011 at 7:47 am - Reply

    It also provides no protection against STDs. Condoms still win.

  13. Eli MacDonald December 31, 2011 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    1.Does not protect STD’s
    2.Extremely dangerous and ineffective for adolescents and young people.
    3.Dangerous and horribly anecdotal article with no legit evidence.

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven January 1, 2012 at 10:23 pm - Reply

      @Eli MacDonald: You are correct on the first two, not the third though. :-) Everything here is well researched.

      • Pro-withdrawl method January 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm - Reply

        I dated a girl for one year and eight months having sex on a regular basis using only the pullout method and only doing it correctly (pulling out in time and peeing after each ejaculation before going at it again).

        To the one that speculated that sex done this way would be mechanical because you’re too focused on waiting for the right time to pull out…. I can say its not like that for me at all. Usually I’m trying to make my partner happy, or myself if she’s finished already, and sometimes that doesn’t even happen…. but when it does you know a bit ahead of time, you don’t need to wait or pay that much attention to know when the pleasure gets to that point. I’ve had a 100% success rate but I know my body very well and have practiced self control.

        Basicly if you’ve never masturbated before… don’t try this… if you aren’t very good at masturbating…. don’t try this… If you’re drunk, or under any influence that slows your reaction time…. don’t try this…

        But if you’re good at it and have self control, its a viable solution.

  14. BobbyT January 2, 2012 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    unforgiven247 “So is this method really worth not worrying about or is it likely I have no clue who my babies dad is?”
    Not before the baby is born but a cheap blood test can, after the baby has been born, rule out whoever isn’t your baby’s father. If the test doesn’t do that (either guy could be), a DNA test can tell 100% if negative and 99% if it shows positive.
    This assumes you can find either of them once they find out you’re preg!

    OnTehOtherSide, an unkind remark. At least she wasn’t having the baby killed.

    Luis, “… getting pregnant after the first try proved that wrong.”
    Not really. All it really proves is that no tadpoles met Miss Ova successfully until one did.

    Condoms reduce but do not eliminate the possibility of STIs. Per sex act. However, their availability does encourage more sex acts, so their availability increases the incidence of STIs and pregnancies in a population. If having condoms available makes no difference to you how often you have sex, that is, you would have as much sex if no condoms were available, condoms will reduce the likelihood of STIs and, if you would use no other contraception, pregnancy.

    Planned Parenthood has come under fire (again!) for distributing millions of defective condoms (holes, break easily). They get more abortion business that way.
    Like they do, not reporting suspected statutory rape when underage girls come in for abortions. The rapist (legally speaking if not forcible) is then free to generate more abortion business with the same girl. And others.

  15. RTFA January 2, 2012 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    All discussion on STDs are irrelevant. The topic is about preventing pregnancy. Not preventing STDs or safe sex.

  16. Neville March 26, 2013 at 12:25 am - Reply

    My partner and I have been together for close to 3 months. From the first time we had sex (we were both tested first and are 100% clean), we’ve soly relied on using the pullout method. We both feel the withdrawal method is a great method of birth control as it’s 100% natural without any hormones involved and it’s cumfortable too. We have not had any pregnancy scares to date as I know my body very well and know when to pullout & spurt my babybatter elsewhere lol ;-)
    After each ejaculation, I always urinate so that any residual sperm left in my urethra is flushed out before going for Round Two. It also helps to wash your appendage with soap just to be safe afterwards as well ;-)

    I would only recommend this form of birth control in monogamous relationships (NOT Casual relationships) as it does not protect against any STI’s.

  17. Emily July 20, 2013 at 10:19 am - Reply

    My partner and I have used the pull out method for 2 years successfully. I tried the pill a couple of times for a short while and the side effects were horrible and they messed my system up for several weeks afterwards. In my experience, the pull out method is natural, there are no nasty side effects that you get from the pill (the pill reduced my sex drive, gave me acne, made me moody, made me feel sick all the time and gave me daily headaches and when i discontinued i bled for about a month every day each time and i had no idea when i was ovulating or when my period would come). While using the pull out method, i must add that i make sure i’m aware of when i am ovulating and when i am likely to be most fertile. During these days we have oral sex instead. I wish GPs would educated people more about the pull out method rather than dismiss it completely.

  18. Me September 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    My then girlfriend/finance and I started using the pull out method from the moment we became engaged. We felt it was the best method for us. Add to that the fact that my girlfriend…now my wife of more than 30 years…could somewhat accurately predict her ovulation cycle we were successful for nearly 4 years.

    After our wedding we still used withdrawl and did not get pregnant for 3 years. We now have 4 children.

    • Alli3 April 18, 2014 at 8:11 am - Reply

      Matt, LMAO.
      My husband is neutered, we use the pull out method and spat everywhere just to be kinky. Teehee.

  19. crabz September 21, 2013 at 10:54 pm - Reply

    so…. urinate before sex, pull-out before near ejaculation, urinate again, then round two, and so on.. is this correct?

  20. matt November 30, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Might as well give her a pearl necklace.

  21. amanda December 20, 2013 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    My husband and I used the pullout method for 8 years. Never got pregnant. I thought for sure one of us had a problem. We then planned our baby New Years day 2012. And was pregnant within a week of not pulling out. So obviously it does work.

  22. Experienced May 6, 2014 at 1:14 am - Reply

    My fiance and I have been using this method since we started dating (Almost 6 years). We’ll go at it, he’ll pull out, ejaculate, pee, then we’ll go at it again. We go a few rounds. I have yet to become pregnant. I’ve always wondered if I was infertile, but based on this I hope I’m not. Guess we won’t find out until we start trying for a baby.

    • Experienced May 6, 2014 at 1:17 am - Reply

      By the way I’m not on the pill or any other type of contraception, sometimes we’ll use condoms, but we both prefer the pullout method. It just feels better.

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