Coitus Interruptus
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Coitus Interruptus
Coitus interruptus
First useAncient
Failure rates (first year)
Perfect use4%[1]
Typical use22%[1]
User remindersDependent upon self-control. Urinating between acts of sexual intercourse helps clear sperm from urethra.
Advantages and disadvantages
STI protectionNo

Coitus interruptus, also known as withdrawal or the pull-out method, is a method of birth control in which a man, during sexual intercourse, withdraws his penis from a woman's vagina prior to orgasm (and ejaculation) and then directs his ejaculate (semen) away from the vagina in an effort to avoid insemination.[2][3]

This method of contraception, widely used for at least two millennia, is still in use today. This method was used by an estimated 38 million couples worldwide in 1991.[2]Coitus interruptus does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs).[4]


Perhaps the oldest documentation of the use of the withdrawal method to avoid pregnancy is the story of Onan in the Torah and the Bible. This text is believed to have been written down over 2,500 years ago.[5] Societies in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome preferred small families and are known to have practiced a variety of birth control methods.[6]:12,16-17 There are references that have led historians to believe withdrawal was sometimes used as birth control.[7] However, these societies viewed birth control as a woman's responsibility, and the only well-documented contraception methods were female-controlled devices (both possibly effective, such as pessaries, and ineffective, such as amulets).[6]:17,23

After the decline of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, contraceptive practices fell out of use in Europe; the use of contraceptive pessaries, for example, is not documented again until the 15th century. If withdrawal was used during the Roman Empire, knowledge of the practice may have been lost during its decline.[6]:33,42

From the 18th century until the development of modern methods, withdrawal was one of the most popular methods of birth-control in Europe, North America, and elsewhere.[7]


Like many methods of birth control, reliable effect is achieved only by correct and consistent use. Observed failure rates of withdrawal vary depending on the population being studied: studies have found actual failure rates of 15-28% per year.[8] In comparison, the pill has an actual use failure rate of 2-8%,[9] while intrauterine devices (IUDs) have an actual use failure rate of 0.8%.[10]Condoms have an actual use failure rate of 10-18%.[8] However, some authors suggest that actual effectiveness of withdrawal could be similar to effectiveness of condoms, and this area needs further research.[11] (See Comparison of birth control methods.)

For couples that use coitus interruptus correctly at every act of intercourse, the failure rate is 4% per year. In comparison, the pill has a perfect-use failure rate of 0.3%, IUDs a rate of 0.6%, and condoms a rate of 2%.[10]

It has been suggested that the pre-ejaculate ("Cowper's fluid") emitted by the penis prior to ejaculation normally contains spermatozoa (sperm cells), which would compromise the effectiveness of the method.[12][13] However, several small studies[14][15][16][17] have failed to find any viable sperm in the fluid. While no large conclusive studies have been done, it is believed by some that the cause of method (correct-use) failure is the pre-ejaculate fluid picking up sperm from a previous ejaculation.[18][19] For this reason, it is recommended that the male partner urinate between ejaculations, to clear the urethra of sperm, and wash any ejaculate from objects that might come near the woman's vulva (e.g. hands and penis).[19]

However, recent research suggests that this might not be accurate. A contrary, yet non-generalizable study that found mixed evidence, including individual cases of a high sperm concentration, was published in March 2011.[20] A noted limitation to these previous studies' findings is that pre-ejaculate samples were analyzed after the critical two-minute point. That is, looking for motile sperm in small amounts of pre-ejaculate via microscope after two minutes - when the sample has most likely dried - makes examination and evaluation "extremely difficult".[20] Thus, in March 2011 a team of researchers assembled 27 male volunteers and analyzed their pre-ejaculate samples within two minutes after producing them. The researchers found that 11 of the 27 men (41%) produced pre-ejaculatory samples that contained sperm, and 10 of these samples (37%) contained a "fair amount" of motile sperm (i.e. as few as 1 million to as many as 35 million).[20] This study therefore recommends, in order to minimise unintended pregnancy and disease transmission, the use of condoms from the first moment of genital contact. As a point of reference, a study showed that, of couples who conceived within a year of trying, only 2.5% included a male partner with a total sperm count (per ejaculate) of 23 million sperm or less.[21] However, across a wide range of observed values, total sperm count (as with other identified semen and sperm characteristics) has weak power to predict which couples are at risk of pregnancy.[22]

It is widely believed that urinating after an ejaculation will flush the urethra of remaining sperm.[18] However, some of the subjects in the March 2011 study who produced sperm in their pre-ejaculate did urinate (sometimes more than once) before producing their sample.[20] Therefore, some males can release the pre-ejaculate fluid containing sperm without a previous ejaculation.


The advantage of coitus interruptus is that it can be used by people who have objections to, or do not have access to, other forms of contraception. Some persons prefer it so they can avoid possible adverse effects of hormonal contraceptives or so that they can have a full experience and be able to "feel" their partner.[23] Other reasons for the popularity of this method are it has no direct monetary cost, requires no artificial devices, has no physical side effects, can be practiced without a prescription or medical consultation, and provides no barriers to stimulation.[3]


Compared to the other common reversible methods of contraception such as IUDs, hormonal contraceptives, and male condoms, coitus interruptus is less effective at preventing pregnancy.[10] As a result, it is also less cost-effective than many more effective methods: although the method itself has no direct cost, users have a greater chance of incurring the risks and expenses of either child-birth or abortion. Only models that assume all couples practice perfect use of the method find cost savings associated with the choice of withdrawal as a birth control method.[24]

The method is largely ineffective in the prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs), like HIV, since pre-ejaculate may carry viral particles or bacteria which may infect the partner if this fluid comes in contact with mucous membranes. However, a reduction in the volume of bodily fluids exchanged during intercourse may reduce the likelihood of disease transmission compared to using no method due to the smaller number of pathogens present.[16]


Based on data from surveys conducted during the late 1990s, 3% of women of childbearing age worldwide rely on withdrawal as their primary method of contraception. Regional popularity of the method varies widely, from a low of 1% in Africa to 16% in Western Asia.[25]

In the United States, a 2002 survey indicated 56% of women of reproductive age have had a partner use withdrawal, but only 2.5% were using withdrawal as their primary method of contraception.[26]

See also


  1. ^ a b Trussell, James (2011). "Contraceptive efficacy". In Hatcher, Robert A.; Trussell, James; Nelson, Anita L.; Cates, Willard Jr.; Kowal, Deborah; Policar, Michael S. (eds.). Contraceptive technology (PDF) (20th revised ed.). New York: Ardent Media. pp. 779-863. ISBN 978-1-59708-004-0. ISSN 0091-9721. OCLC 781956734. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-04-10. Retrieved .Table 26-1 =
  2. ^ a b Rogow D, Horowitz S (1995). "Withdrawal: a review of the literature and an agenda for research". Studies in Family Planning. 26 (3): 140-53. doi:10.2307/2137833. JSTOR 2137833. PMID 7570764., which cites:
    Population Action International (1991). "A Guide to Methods of Birth Control." Briefing Paper No. 25, Washington, D. C.
  3. ^ a b "Coitus interruptus". Retrieved 2019.(subscription required)
  4. ^ Creatsas G (1993). "Sexuality: sexual activity and contraception during adolescence". Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 5 (6): 774-83. doi:10.1097/00001703-199312000-00011. PMID 8286689.
  5. ^ Adams, Cecil (2002-01-07). "Who wrote the Bible? (Part 1)". The Straight Dope. Creative Loafing Media, Inc. Retrieved .
  6. ^ a b c Collier, Aine (2007). The Humble Little Condom: A History. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. ISBN 978-1-59102-556-6.
  7. ^ a b Bullough, Vern L. (2001). Encyclopedia of birth control. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO. pp. 74-75. ISBN 978-1-57607-181-6. Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b Kippley, John; Kippley, Sheila (1996). The Art of Natural Family Planning (4th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-926412-13-2., which cites:
    "Choice of Contraceptives". The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapeutics. 34 (885): 111-114. 1992. PMID 1448019.
    Hatcher, RA; Trussel J; Stewart F; et al. (1994). Contraceptive Technology (Sixteenth Revised ed.). New York: Irvington Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8290-3171-3.
  9. ^ Audet MC, Moreau M, Koltun WD, Waldbaum AS, Shangold G, Fisher AC, Creasy GW (2001). "Evaluation of contraceptive efficacy and cycle control of a transdermal contraceptive patch vs an oral contraceptive: a randomized controlled trial". JAMA. 285 (18): 2347-54. doi:10.1001/jama.285.18.2347. PMID 11343482. Archived from the original (Slides of comparative efficacy]) on 2007-03-26. Retrieved .
    "Contraceptive Use". Facts in Brief. The Alan Guttmacher Institute. Archived from the original on 2001-12-18. Retrieved . - see table First-Year Contraceptive Failure Rates
  10. ^ a b c Hatcher, RA; Trussel J; Stewart F; et al. (2000). Contraceptive Technology (18th ed.). New York: Ardent Media. ISBN 978-0-9664902-6-8.
  11. ^ Jones RK, Fennell J, Higgins JA, Blanchard K (June 2009). "Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal" (PDF). Contraception. 79 (6): 407-10. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2008.12.008. PMID 19442773. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Harms, Roger W. (2007-09-20). "Can pre-ejaculation fluid cause pregnancy?". Women's health: Expert answers. Retrieved .
  13. ^ Cornforth, Tracee (2003-12-02). "How effective is withdrawal as a birth control method?". Women's Health. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Zukerman, Z.; Weiss, DB; Orvieto, R (April 2003). "Short Communication: Does Preejaculatory Penile Secretion Originating from Cowper's Gland Contain Sperm?". Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. 20 (4): 157-159. doi:10.1023/A:1022933320700. PMC 3455634. PMID 12762415.
  15. ^ Free M, Alexander N (1976). "Male contraception without prescription. A reevaluation of the condom and coitus interruptus". Public Health Rep. 91 (5): 437-45. PMC 1440560. PMID 824668.
  16. ^ a b "Researchers find no sperm in pre-ejaculate fluid". Contraceptive Technology Update. 14 (10): 154-156. October 1993. PMID 12286905.
  17. ^ Clark, S. (Sep 1981). "An examination of the sperm content of human pre-ejaculatory fluid". [Unpublished].
  18. ^ a b "Withdrawal Method". Planned Parenthood. March 2004. Retrieved .
  19. ^ a b Delvin, David (2005-01-17). "Coitus interruptus (Withdrawal method)". Retrieved .
  20. ^ a b c d Killick SR, Leary C, Trussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). "Sperm content of pre-ejaculatory fluid". Human Fertility. 14 (1): 48-52. doi:10.3109/14647273.2010.520798. PMC 3564677. PMID 21155689.
  21. ^ Cooper, T.G.; Noonan, E.; von Eckaedstein, S.; Auger, J.; Baker, H.W.G.; Behre, H.M.; et al. (2010). "World Health Organisation reference values for human semen characteristics". Human Reproduction Update. 16 (3): 231-245. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmp048. PMID 19934213.
  22. ^ Slama, R.; Eustache, F.; et al. (2002). "Time to pregnancy and semen parameters: a cross-sectional study among fertile couples from four European cities". Human Reproduction. 17 (2): 503-15. doi:10.1093/humrep/17.2.503. PMID 11821304.
  23. ^ Ortayli, N; Bulut, A; Ozugurlu, M; Cokar, M (2005). "Why Withdrawal? Why not withdrawal? Men's perspectives". Reproductive Health Matters. 13 (25): 164-73. doi:10.1016/S0968-8080(05)25175-3. PMID 16035610.
  24. ^ James Trusell; Leveque, JA; Koenig, JD; London, R; Borden, S; Henneberry, J; Laguardia, KD; Stewart, F; et al. (April 1995). "The economic value of contraception: a comparison of 15 methods" (PDF). American Journal of Public Health. 85 (4): 494-503. doi:10.2105/AJPH.85.4.494. PMC 1615115. PMID 7702112.
  25. ^ "Family Planning Worldwide: 2002 Data Sheet" (PDF). Population Reference Bureau. 2002. Retrieved . Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  26. ^ Chandra, A; Martinez, GM; Mosher, WD; Abma, JC; Jones, J (2005). "Fertility, Family Planning, and Reproductive Health of U.S. Women: Data From the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth" (PDF). Vital and Health Statistics. National Center for Health Statistics. 23 (25). Retrieved . See Tables 53 and 56.

Further reading

External links

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