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Pull And Pray Is Not The Way

Oh my dear God. I found this article on birth-control from over at LICD Webcomic who got it from one of his readers, and I am just shocked. It seems every time I think there might be a glimmer of hope for the scientific community, they throw a curve ball over to the stands.

Seeing as I know (thanks to Google analytics) that most of my readers won't bother to click the above link, I will say that the article is about medical doctors wanting the withdrawal method, better known as the pull and pray method to be considered a viable form of contraceptive. And by "viable", I mean one in which the doctors should be discussing as a possible contraceptive method between partners. I will give them one tiny mark for admitting it is not a full-proof method, but just to acknowledge it is ludicrous to begin with. You know it, I know it, but apparently some doctors don't know it.

So how on Earth did they decide it should be a viable method of contraceptive? The answer is statistics. Many people have been using the pull-and-pray method with some success, which makes it statistically viable according to the doctor in the article. But what they never seem to teach in school is that statistics lie. Statistics are biased and opinionated and they, well, they lie. Except for the statistical correlation between the decline in Pirates and global warming. That one is truthful.

In order to see just how bad statistics can lie let's take a look at two examples of other methods of birth-control that should be thrown on the table from a statistical point of view. The first is an old wives tale that you hear from time to time and which has even made it into various movies: You can't get pregnant if you are a virgin. I will bet my life's savings that if you were to do a study on the number of teens who have practiced this method of birth-control, there would be less than a 50% conception rate. Probably somewhere below 20%. I can make that statement because of the next method of birth-control that should receive equal time with the withdrawal method.

The Just Have Sex Method of birth-control. Poll any couple who has tried to have a baby as to the frequency of their "unprotected" sexual activity prior to conception and you will be seeing averages of 30-60 days. Even on the low end of that, 30 days of "unprotected" sex, assuming an average of once per day, means that the couple had sex 31 times with one instance resulting in conception. That is a 96.7% effective rate for just having sex as a viable form of contraceptive. That's almost the level of condoms for FSMs sake. Statistically speaking of course.

Not buying it? Well, let's look at the facts then. The average menstrual cycle of a woman is 28 days. Of those 28 days, ovulation occurs around day 14, which is when the egg comes flying down the fallopian tube (the process starts around day 12). The egg is viable for about 2 days after that, meaning it can be fertilized by a sperm. Looking at the statistics for this, and being generous by allowing for 3 days of actual conception, we can see that for 89.3% of the days in a menstrual cycle conception is not going to happen.

"But Andrew," you say, "the most fertile period of a woman is from 5 days before to 2 days after ovulation. Wikipedia told me so." And you would be right. The reason for this is that sperm can actual survive inside a woman for 5-6 days or so. Meaning they can be waiting for the ovum like well trained Ninja, ready to strike at first sight. One would think that this would increase the odds of conception to something higher than 11%, right? Wrong.

Sperm are not well trained Ninja. At best they are undertrained Ninja. And Ninja are weak when compared with Pirates. Instead of swimming up to wait for the ovum to arrive, sperm, in their Ninja fashion, wander around aimlessly without a well thought out plan of attack. Most actually drip out of the woman after sexual intercourse is complete (hence the need for towels). The rest crash into each other, try to swim through the walls of the uterus, and general look like the three stooges. Basically, Ninja-like. This behavior greatly reduces the chance of conception overall.

Some do get lucky, however. This is why the human race has not died off, and the reason that there is a slight chance of conception. It is also the reason it is still called the "miracle" of life. This leads me to my last point regarding the so called withdrawal method of contraception.

When a man is sexually excited, even before intercourse, small amounts of semen are released from the penis. This helps in providing lubrication during intercourse. This semen contains viable sperm. It is just as likely that one of these viable sperm, released prior to ejaculation, could blunder upon the ovum and result in conception. Notice this little part: released prior to ejaculation. Meaning before the pull-and-pray method has even had a chance to take place.

If you put all of this together, you will see that the withdrawal method has roughly the same chances of conception (or prevention) as sleeping with only virginal women and just going for it (or the anti-withdrawal method). Stealing from my Pastafarian brothers and the Prophet Bobby Henderson, if you are going to teach the withdrawal method as a viable form of contraception, the other two methods listed here should receive equal time. Either that or some doctors need to go back to school to learn about reproduction and statistics. Thank You.

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