Better Than Nothing or Savvy Risk-Reduction Practice? The Importance of Withdrawal

Rachel K. Jones, Guttmacher Institute Julie Fennell Jenny A. Higgins, University of Wisconsin–Madison Kelly Blanchard, Ibis Reproductive Health

First published on Contraception:

Abstract / Summary

Withdrawal is sometimes referred to as the contraceptive method that is "better than nothing." But, based on the evidence, it might more aptly be referred to as a method that is almost as effective as the male condom—at least when it comes to pregnancy prevention. If the male partner withdraws before ejaculation every time a couple has vaginal intercourse, about 4% of couples will become pregnant over the course of a year. However, more realistic estimates of typical use indicate that about 18% of couples will become pregnant in a year using withdrawal. These rates are only slightly less effective than male condoms, which have perfect- and typical-use failure rates of 2% and 17%, respectively.


United States