Say Bye Bye to Condoms

July 21, 2009

What do you think is the most effective form of contraception: condoms or the old withdrawal method? Most people would say condoms. However, it turns out that may not be the case.

Coitus Interruptus (commonly known as "pulling out") may be the oldest method of contraception and, according to a recently published paper, it’s as effective as wearing a condom. The paper (PDF), Better Than Nothing or Savvy Risk-Reduction Practice? The Importance of Withdrawal, published in the June issue of Contraception magazine (yes, such a magazine exists) has rocked the world of birth control by pronouncing the pull-out method as “almost as effective as the male condom -- at least when it comes to pregnancy prevention.”

According to the paper, “If the male partner withdraws before ejaculation every time a couple has vaginal intercourse, about four percent of couples will become pregnant over the course of a year.” If a condom is used every time, that rate would be two percent.

Okay, so from this data it looks like condoms win out. However, the researchers looked at the “typical use” of each birth control method, “because people can’t be expected to use any contraception method perfectly every time.” The researchers found that the typical use of withdrawal leads to pregnancy 18 percent of the time and for typical use of condoms 17 percent of the time. Not much of a difference at all.

The authors of the article say they were motivated to research the effectiveness of the withdrawal method as it is often overlooked as a true form of contraception. The lead author, Rachel K. Jones of the he Guttmacher Institute, said, “We had all noticed that social science researchers and health care providers just kind of dismiss withdrawal and don’t seem to realize that it can prevent pregnancy.”

The authors of the article are quick to point out that their “intention was not to advocate withdrawal, but to advocate talking about it.” They note that the withdrawal method does not provide protection against any STDs and that better forms of contraception, such as the pill and patch, an Intrauterine device, or Depo-Provera injections exist. The problem with these methods is they place the burden on the female.

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