Birth Control Beads: Would You Use Them to Plan Pregnancy?

The rhythm method of family planning can be tough to follow. A modern Standard Days Method makes it more foolproof.

| September 21st, 2011
Family Planning Method: More Effective Birth Control?

When it comes to family planning—deciding how many children to have and how many years apart they'll be spaced—women are faced with few choices. Among them: Condoms, IUDs or trading in your birth control for a lot less control.

But a new study shows there's another option, that's side-effect free: A different take on the rhythm method. Yes, that form of pregnancy protection long vilified by your sex-ed teacher and your mother got a makeover. Meet "The Standard Days Method," where you use a string of color-coded beads to identify your fertile days (rather than your math skills). The Standard Days Method has a perfect-use failure rate of about 5 percent—less than the rhythm method, and some condoms and diaphragms.

A study, to be published in the October issue of Journal of Family Planning & Reproductive Health Care, followed 1,659 women who used the Standard Days Method. This method, which was created by researchers at the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University Medical Center, identifes the 12-day "fertile window" of our cycles.

These days factor in the life of a woman's egg (about one day), the viable life of sperm (about five days), plus the varied timing of ovulation from cycle-to-cycle.

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When used for a year, this method was found to be 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Two-thirds of the women, almost all of whom had children under two, continued using the method effectively in the next two years.

“Women choose to use this to achieve and avoid pregnancy. They like that it’s side-effect free. It works with their body and doesn’t squelch fertility,” says Institute for Reproductive Health Director Victoria Jennings, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Georgetown University Medical Center.

“This method includes a lot of women but not everybody," she adds. For a large part, those who didn’t continue the method had cycles that fell outside the 26-32 day range.

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Courtesy of CycleBeads

How does it work? Women identified the week of their cycle when they were most fertile, with "CycleBeads," created by The Institute for Reproductive Health. Women moved a rubber band along one bead a day, starting with the red bead, which (you guessed it) signals your menstrual cycle.

Once you hit the glow-in-the-dark beads (beads 8-19), you know you’re more likely to get pregnant upon having unprotected sex. When you reach the brown beads, pregnancy is very unlikely.

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