The good news: More and more men are taking control of birth control in the bedroom, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The not-so-good news? The method that’s growing fastest in popularity is one that can be pretty damn risky.
That’s what researchers determined after surveying over 3,000 unmarried men ages 15 to 44 on their methods of birth control. The findings? Using any kind of male contraceptive method increased from 52 percent in 2002 to 59 percent from 2011 to 2015.
But the withdrawal method—also known as “pulling out”—is the one that was growing the fastest. In 2002, just about 10 percent of men said they used withdrawal method. But by 2011 to 2015, that number had grown to 19 percent.
Rates of withdrawal method use were highest in for never-married guys, in comparison to formerly married men or cohabiting men.
Problem is, the withdrawal method can be a risky form of birth control. If used perfectly—meaning, you pull out before you ejaculate, so no semen gets in her vagina or on her vulva—couples have a 4 percent chance of getting pregnant within a year, according to estimates in the journal Contraception. But with typical use—meaning you pull out too late—the pregnancy risk within a year grows to 22 percent.
“Sperm is mobile,” says Raegan McDonald-Mosley, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told us in the past. “It swims around. Even if a little bit of semen gets near the woman’s vulva, it can swim into the vagina and increase the risk of pregnancy.”
Plus, even if you do use the withdrawal method perfectly, it’s not foolproof, since it’s possible that the pre-ejaculate you release during sex can contain sperm.
So if you’re not okay with the pregnancy risk that comes with withdrawal, seek other methods instead. If you’re not looking to have kids, a permanent method like vasectomy may be a better male contraceptive method. In the year after the procedure, 15 to 20 couples out of 10,000 will experience a pregnancy, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That’s in comparison to 1,400 out of 10,000 couples using condoms. (Here are 15 ways you’re using condoms wrong.)
Still, important note: If you’re looking to not only prevent pregnancy but also guard against sexually transmitted diseases, you’ll need to go the condom route: Neither withdrawal or vasectomy protect against them. (MH recommends these LELO Hex Condoms.)