Why Is the Pull-Out Method Making a Comeback Among Grown Women?

RELATED: How Your Weight Impacts the Morning-After Pill’s Effectiveness

Chances are you’re either gasping or nodding right now. To those who prefer to play it safe (both in terms of pregnancy and STDs), unprotected sex is a firm no-no. But those who embrace the pull-out method, including the ladies and gent we spoke with, say that it simply hasn’t failed them (yet). 

Here’s what pull-out fans and experts have to say about why people are choosing this iffy form of contraception—and what the risks might be.

Why People Are Doing It
The Pill comes with side effects: “I gained a good 10 pounds since going on the Pill,” says Julie, 32, who turned to the pull-out method. “To me, that’s not worth it.”

While weight gain and other side effects don’t affect every woman on the Pill, many are wary of the synthetic hormones in oral contraceptives. “I’m not on the Pill and don’t want to be because I don’t know how it will impact my body, so we just make sure he pulls out every time,” says Kate, 34.

And though numerous studies have shown that the Pill is perfectly safe, some patients still prefer to skip it. “This generation is all about being natural and not putting unnecessary things in their body. So, pulling out is a non-hormonal option they consider,” says gynecologist Maureen Whelihan, M.D., ob-gyn, Fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

But these concerns don’t mean you should give up entirely. “Birth control is not a one-size fits-all scenario,” says Morse. “Not all birth control pills have the same side effects. If one type doesn’t work, talk to your doctor about trying something different.”

RELATED: 5 Ways to Make Sex with Condoms Feel SO Much Better

IUDs are a pain: When it comes to other contraceptive methods, IUDs can be painful to insert. (Though after that initial adjustment period, many women consider them a godsend.) Unfortunately, not everyone is a candidate, says Whelihan. Some women simply can’t tolerate the pain of getting one, and others find that their cramps are worse each month (this is especially common with the hormone-free copper IUDs), she says. If you’re unsure whether an IUD is the right choice for you, consult with your doc about other options. 

Condoms don’t feel good: But what about that other trusty, non-hormonal baby blocker you’ve known about since the sixth grade? As you might have guessed, condoms come with their own set of issues. “Guys aren’t fond of this as an option due to lack of sensation,” says Whelihan. Matt, 31, says that he and his long-time girlfriend have used the withdrawal method for over a year because sex just feels better without it.

That being said, condoms are a must for couples who aren’t exclusive and haven’t been tested for STDs—so every new duo needs to use them. You absolutely should not be putting yourself at risk simply because your partner doesn’t feel excited about wearing a condom. (Help things go a little smoother with the help of this organic lube from the Womens’ Health Boutique.)

Plan B exists: “I have used the pull-out method in the past,” says Gena, 33. “It was either with a long-term boyfriend or an ongoing hookup that I trusted,” she says. “It’s definitely risky, but I just felt like if he doesn’t pull out in time I could always get the morning after pill. That has happened maybe once or twice.”

Why Pulling Out Is Not a Great Idea
Sure, some birth control options might come with unfortunate side effects—but skipping them might come at the price of an unplanned pregnancy or STD. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the withdrawal method has a 4 percent likelihood of resulting in pregnancy over the course of one year when executed perfectly every time. When you consider that the condom has a two percent failure rate, the numbers don’t seem drastically different. However, there’s a great deal of human error that can happen. “A guy has to be able to tell when he’s about to ejaculate, and then also have the discipline to withdraw in time. This takes a level of experience and self-control that many men don’t possess,” says Morse. That’s why ACOG lists the failure rate of the withdrawal method at 18.4 percent with typical use. So, yeah, that’s not great.

Even if your partner does have a Jedi-like level of self-awareness and willpower to pull out before he ejaculates every time, there’s another issue: pre-ejaculate. Many of the pro-pull-out folk we spoke with believe that it’s harmless. “There is no sperm in pre-come,” says Matt. But Whelihan says that’s not true. “There are a few drops of pre-ejaculate that leak out during excitement and contain thousands of sperm.” Between exposure to sperm in pre-come and the likelihood of timing mistakes during ejaculation, a responsible adult not looking to conceive is putting herself at risk for life-changing consequences.

Pull-Out Precautions
If you ever find yourself relying on the pull-out method, which the pros don’t condone, there are extra steps you can take to make it safer. “Consider the addition of a product like the sponge, spermicide, or birth control film for a second backup. The sponge goes in in advance and doesn’t interfere in the moment,” says Whelihan.

When it comes to the moment of truth, it’s safest to allow a pause after he pulls out before ejaculation. “I tell women that I prefer for them to see a second or two of nothing once he pulls out before sperm is coming,” she adds. “If he is releasing during withdrawal, all bets are off!”

Bottom line: Don’t hate on condoms. They could save you a lot of trouble.