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Contraceptive Pearl: Withdrawal

Nearly 60% of women aged 15-44 in the United States have used withdrawal for birth control at least once. In the past, clinicians counseled patients that withdrawal doesn’t work at all. Now that we know that withdrawal works nearly as well as condoms, we should discuss this method of contraception with patients.

Many couples use withdrawal alone or combined with another contraceptive method. Some people don’t consider withdrawal a “real” birth control method, and don’t discuss it unless clinicians ask about it specifically. Rather than overlooking withdrawal, clinicians should ask about its use and consider advance prescribing of emergency contraception so that couples have a back-up method available if withdrawal fails.

Some couples use withdrawal in order to avoid hormones. The copper IUD, a long-acting, highly effective form of contraception, is a great option for these women. It has no hormones and it works as emergency contraception!

We appreciate your feedback! Please write to us at with any questions, comments or additional resources to add to our list.


Helpful Resources

Birth Control for Men 

Non-Prescription Birth Control Methods 

Which EC Is Right for Me? 



Rachel K, Jones RK, Fennel J, et al. Better than nothing or savvy risk-reduction practice? The importance of withdrawal. Contraception. Jun 2009. 79(6); 407-410. 


Free CME Credit

To earn 1 free CME credit, all you have to do is take a short quiz based on the content in this month’s Contraceptive Pearl. Answer 2 of the 3 questions correctly, and you’ll receive a certificate documenting your CME credit. It’s that easy! CME granted by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Just click on this CME Quiz and get started!



The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or contraception. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.