Pulling Out Is Still a Popular Birth Control Method

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Pull and pray or extra protection? Recent research seeks to find answers when it comes to how—and how many—women are actually using the world's oldest method of contraception.

While previous research suggested that very few women rely on "pulling out," according to a national study of more than 3,000 U.S. women aged 18 to 39 published in Contraception, 33 percent had used the withdrawal method of birth control in the past month.

Although only 12 percent reported using withdrawal alone, the study found that many women and couples used withdrawal in combination or rotation with condoms and highly effective methods, with "younger women, women in dating relationships, and women strongly motivated to avoid pregnancy," showing the highest levels of "dual" use. 

Withdrawal, which is about as effective as condoms at preventing pregnancy (the perfect-use failure rate for withdrawal is 4 percent compared to 3 percent for condoms), may not be deserving of it's bad rap in the world of contraceptives: "Findings suggest that some people who use withdrawal may be more versus less vigilant about pregnancy prevention," the study concludes.

The implications? While withdrawal does not provide protection against STIs, the study authors encourage health care providers and sexual health educators who discuss contraception to include withdrawal in these conversations to make both men and women aware of the pros and cons.

Do these findings surprise you? Are you using withdrawal as birth control? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @Shape_Magazine!

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