• Suitable for unplanned sex - no preparation is needed.
  • Free.
  • Does not require you to take or use any hormone treatment.
  • Can be used while breastfeeding.
  • Does not affect other medication.
  • Does not interrupt sex.

When a man physically withdraws his penis before ejaculation to prevent sperm from entering his partner’s body.

Withdrawal, or 'the withdrawal method', acts as a form of natural contraception as the man withdraws his penis before ejaculation, so that no sperm enters the woman’s vagina.

Withdrawal relies on the man being able to fully pull out at the right moment. The point of ejaculation can be difficult to predict and control, so withdrawal is a risky method of preventing pregnancy. Some sperm can be released in pre-ejaculate or ‘pre-come’, so there is still a chance of pregnancy, even if the man comes outside the vagina. Withdrawal also interrupts sex (and is a bit messy), so can be less pleasurable for one or both partners.

Lasts for
1 use
Effect on period
Side effects

*for typical use. This means 22 out of 100 women using this method will get pregnant.

How it works

How to use it

You should agree before you start having sex that you are going to use the withdrawal method, to ensure that both partners are prepared.

As he feels himself building up to ejaculation, the male partner pulls his penis out of the vagina completely, and ejaculates outside the body.

Why it works

When done properly, withdrawal stops sperm from entering the woman’s vagina and reaching an egg.

Things to consider

It is very difficult to judge when ejaculation is going to happen, and some sperm in the pre-ejaculate can still reach the egg, so it’s an unreliable way to prevent pregnancy.

Sex can be less pleasurable when a man withdraws early - he may not come at all, and the woman may not have reached the point of orgasm.

You also need to consider where the man is going to ejaculate - this might be onto a towel, the bed, or onto his partner’s body. In any case, it is going to be messy, and some people may find it unpleasant. You should discuss with your partner beforehand to make sure that you both feel comfortable and are ready for withdrawal so that you can enjoy sex.

Withdrawal should not be used as a long term method of contraception.

If you are worried about pregnancy, you can use emergency contraception.

Withdrawal does not prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only effective method of protection against STIs.


Withdrawal is suitable for anyone who feels comfortable discussing and agreeing with their partner that they will use this method.

Side effects & risks

There is a risk of pregnancy as withdrawal is difficult to perform correctly.

There are no side effects.


Why would people use the withdrawal method?

Withdrawal might be used when a couple are having sex but are not yet using another form of contraception, or when their contraception is not as reliable as normal (for example, when a woman has missed some pills). It might also be used by people who prefer not to use hormonal contraception.

To make an appointment or for further advice, please call:

0300 303 1948

Phoneline open 08:15-16:45 Monday-Friday

(closed 12:30-13:30 for lunch)