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Does the Pullout Method Work?

A close look at the data.
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Ah, friends. They're like family but cooler. Fully customizable. Fall and one of them will be right there to pick you back up. But as great as friends can be, they also do a lot of really stupid stuff. Stuff that blows your mind. Like, sometimes it seems crazy that you even hang out with people who make such crappy decisions. Stuff that, were it to get out, would be mortifying for anyone with even a shred of self-respect. Lucky for your friends, they've got you to ask their deepest, darkest questions for them. And lucky for you, we started this column to answer those most embarrassing of queries. The scenario: Your "friend" likes to live in the moment—which is why her baby-prevention method of choice is to shift her partner's stick into reverse seconds before he comes. The hope: That no semen equals no screamin' infants. There was, after all, a study in 2009 that suggested that the use of withdrawal leads to pregnancy just about as often as the typical use of condoms.


The reality: The results of that study showed that with typical use, people indeed get pregnant 18 percent of the time using the withdrawal method—and 17 percent of the time using condoms. But given those rates, the takeaway message isn't  the pullout method is awesomely effective so much as it's: people are really bad at using condoms correctly. Given the 18 percent rate of accidental pregnancy, we can safely assume that pull-and-pray is not a great method of keeping your friend baby-free. There are far better options: Per the most recent data on typical use, the risk of getting knocked up is 9 percent for women who are on the pill, and less than 1 percent for women using either the copper or the hormonal IUD. But wait, you might protest, my friend says that if her partner pees before sex, washing away any lingering sperm in his urethra, she's in the clear. Alas, science has one-upped this logic: A study in the Journal of Human Fertility shows that of the 41 percent of men who had sperm in their pre-ejaculate, all of them had urinated multiple times since their last romp, suggesting "contamination" actually occurs immediately prior to ejaculation. (Whether or not your friend's partner is the type carrying sperm in his pre-cum does seem to be a relevant question—in that study, anyway, men seemed to fall into two separate and consistent categories—but one that's hard to answer without a microscope.)

What to do: Tell your friend that she can kick the bus out of the parking lot, but the swimmers might have already snuck into the pool. Then offer to accompany her to a Planned Parenthood appointment for an IUD.