I’m always surprised by how many couples tell me their main method of contraception is pulling out.
The oldest form of contraception used by humankind, ‘coitus interruptus’, is the practice of having sex without a condom and pulling the penis out of the vagina just prior to ejaculation.
It’s built on the theory that sperm isn’t emitted from the penis before orgasm – but this isn’t entirely true.
Some couples swear by the ‘withdrawal method’ and are massive advocates because it’s worked for them in the past. Which is lucky, because I’ve spoken with many couples who have relied on the withdrawal method and unexpectedly fallen pregnant.
The withdrawal method works well… until it doesn’t.
Real world data shows that pulling out is effective 78 per cent of the time. This means that if 100 fertile heterosexual couples have sex regularly and use only the withdrawal method as contraception, then 22 of them will become pregnant over a 12-month period.
Putting it another way, nearly one in four couples find out the hard way that the withdrawal method didn’t work. As a doctor who talks about contraception regularly with my patients, I don’t like those odds.
Unrealistic expectations of the withdrawal method’s effectiveness can lead to a pregnancy blame-game. Men are often accused of being caught up in the moment, not pulling out fast enough, or not caring when it comes to cumming.
But we forget that sperm are incredibly sneaky. Nature often finds a way of foiling our best intentions by ensuring procreation.
Throughout human history, couples have had their coitus interrupted due to many different reasons. Whether it was an enemy hiding in the bushes or a knock on the bedroom door, passionate embraces frequently finish before coming close to a happy ending - but despite these brief encounters, people can still fall pregnant.