Today in scientific studies that confirm the obvious, we have a paper from the Duke University Medical Center that led to this stellar Reuters headline: “‘Pull-out method’ tied to unintended pregnancies.” Well, um, yeah.
Most current guides on contraception cite this Guttmacher study for its results on the pull-out method, also called coitus interruptus. That study was performed back in 2009, and found that with perfect use, the pull-out method had a failure rate of about four times out of 100. Not bad, really! But, of course, the whole problem with the pull-out method is that it’s sort of hard to perform it perfectly every single time. By averaging that failure rate with the rate of pregnancy when it was used incorrectly all the time, the researchers landed on a failure rate of about 18 percent as a best guess for average use of the method. That’s only slightly worse than the average failure rate of condoms (17 percent), though it’s pretty easy to argue that condoms are easier to use than the pull-out method.
The new study, performed by, swear to god, Dr. Annie Dude, found that 31 percent of women surveyed had used the pull-out method in the past two years. Twenty-one percent of those women reported an unintended pregnancy–significantly more than the unintended pregnancy rate of women who used non-pull-out-method forms of birth control (13 percent). “We found that people tend to use the withdrawal method when they’re not really planning ahead,” said Dr. Dude, confirming what we all pretty much knew anyway.
The biggest issue with the results of the study is that it suggests more women than previously thought are using the pull-out method, which, aside from being a not-very-effective means of contraception also provides precisely zero protection from sexually transmitted diseases. So, final judgment? The pull-out method: not one of the better methods.