Effectiveness of Withdrawal


I used the withdrawal method on my 28th day I have a cycle of around 33-35 days, but I am 36 days with no sign of my period can this mean I may be pregnant, even though this is the end of my cycle?


Last Updated: June 14, 2013
Thanks for asking. You seem to be asking two things: 1) could I be pregnant using withdrawal method, and two, could I become pregnant on day 28 of my cycle?

The answer to both is Yes. Let me explain, and I will begin with point two.

Because you have a history of 33-35 day cycles, you are assuming the current one and the next one will be the same length. This was the basis of the old calendar rhythm method of a couple generations ago, that we can predict when we will be fertile based on a history of cycles. If we have very regular cycles, we will accurately predict our next period “most” of the time. The unusual person is the one who “always” has cycles the same length, however. Our cycle length is affected by many things, such as stress, diet, exercise, medication, and age. The effect on our cycle depends not only on the severity of the stress or diet change, for instance, but also on the timing of it.

Stress right before our period, or during our period, would probably affect the cycle length very little, but stress around the time of ovulation can delay the ovulation. For instance, if you normally ovulate around day 20 of your cycle, as you seem to, but your ovulation is delayed as a response to one of these factors I have mentioned, it is very possible for ovulation to occur only a week later, on the 28th day of the cycle, when you assume you are nearing your period. If the ovulation is delayed a week (or two, or more), the menses will also be delayed a week (or two, or more).

One need not rely on the prediction method of determining when one is fertile, or when the next period will come, because our body can actually communicate that to us quite clearly, if we simply learn to listen to it! This is modern Natural Family Planning—-learning to observe and interpret the signs produced by our bodies which indicate where we are in our current cycle, whether today is fertile or infertile, and when our next menses will come.

Such awareness of how our body is working removes the guesswork and anxiety that may lead one to interrupt a loving act by withdrawing, or question pregnancy at every variation in cycle length. Withdrawal is an ineffective method of avoiding pregnancy. The pre-ejaculatory fluid of the male contains a very high concentration of sperm, and all that is necessary for conception to occur is for that fluid to come in contact with the mucus at the opening of the vagina. Not only is withdrawal ineffective, it is also a very frustrating expression of intimacy. I find couples are quite happy to abandon the practice and embrace the fullest expression of intimacy once they become confident in their knowledge of their fertility.

By the time you read this, you will know if you are pregnant or not. Human nature is such that once the “crisis” has passed, we resume old habits. I would encourage you to reflect on whether your current practices are enhancing your intimacy, and permitting you to give yourselves to each other totally, which is certainly what we all yearn for. I invite you to investigate these concepts further with a Natural Family Planning Professional. If you are in California, a resource for finding the nearest provider can be found at www.canfp.org. I wish you the best!

Answered By:

CANFP unites under one umbrella all those who use, teach, and advocate for NFP, and our members are our strongest resource: the physicians who provide authentic women’s healthcare, the Practitioners and Certified Teachers of all the natural methods instructing couples in its use, the couples who use NFP and reflect its values in their families and communities, the clergy providing the spiritual formation and context, and the churches, dioceses, hospitals, and profile organizations who collaborate in providing access to these services throughout the state.

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