Popularly regarded as “ineffective,” withdrawal is a form of contraception largely ignored by health -professionals. Thus, little is known of the prevalence and correlates of its use.


A survey of 1,006 sexually active women aged 16–50 and not intending to conceive was conducted in three Family Planning Victoria clinics in 2011. The questionnaire asked about contraceptive behavior and characteristics associated with contraceptive use. Univariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to assess prevalence of withdrawal use and characteristics associated with reliance solely on this method.


Ninety-six percent of women reported having used some form of contraception in the last three months, most commonly male condoms (67%), the pill (49%) and withdrawal (32%); use of withdrawal was especially common among the youngest women. Of women reporting withdrawal use, 40% relied solely on this method. Eighty percent of sole users of withdrawal were also inconsistent users. Women who used only withdrawal had elevated odds of saying that they were dissatisfied with their current method (odds ratio, 1.6), had had more than one partner in the last three months (1.7), had no access to contraceptives when needed (2.4) and found it too inconvenient to use contraceptives (2.1).


Withdrawal use is common, but there is a need for better education on proper use. Health profes-sionals should discuss the risks and benefits of withdrawal, along with those of other methods, when discussing con-traception with their patients. Further research is needed into why women choose withdrawal.