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Cycle Beads and the Standard Days Method

When most people think of contraception, their first thought is usually of either a barrier method (condoms) or a hormonal method (the Pill). Rarely do they think of a method that falls under the umbrella of natural family planning. In recent years, however, natural methods of birth control have gained popularity, partially due to their general ease of use and lack of side effects.

One of the newest forms of natural contraception, the Standard Days Method, developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University in 2002, is a reliable method designed to help you determine your most fertile time of each month. According to an international study of almost 500 women in three countries, the Standard Days Method is more than 95 percent effective when used correctly. To lower your chances of making a mistake, the IRH developed Cycle Beads, a string of 32 color-coded beads, each representing one day of your menstrual cycle.

How it works

The Standard Days Method is based on reproductive physiology data from the World Health Organization that shows women who have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long are able to get pregnant on days eight through 19 of their cycles. In other words, there is a period of 12 days during each month that you are fertile and, if you have unprotected sex, are very likely to conceive.

While the Standard Days Method may sound similar to other methods of natural family planning, it is different in that it doesn't require you to collect detailed information about your menstrual cycles for months in advance. All you need to do is keep track of how long your menstrual cycle is so you can determine when your 12-day fertility period begins.

It all comes down to proper timing. The probability that you will get pregnant from unprotected intercourse increases from 4 percent five days before you ovulate to almost 30 percent just before ovulation, and decreases again to 8 percent on the day of ovulation. The probability of pregnancy is then virtually zero for the rest of your cycle.

Keeping track of your cycle is actually fairly easy using the Standard Days Method. The most important thing you need to know is that the first day of your period is also the first day of your cycle. It is highly unlikely that you will get pregnant between day one and day seven, so if you've been trying to conceive for some time, you and your partner shouldn't feel guilty about giving yourselves a break that week. According to developers of the Standard Days Method, the best time for you and your partner to try again is between the eighth and nineteenth days of your cycle, in the midst of your 12-day "fertile window." Once you've reached the home stretch, from day 20 to day 32, it is - once again - highly unlikely that you will get pregnant.

To make it even easier for you to follow your menstrual cycle with the Standard Days Method, there are Cycle Beads which function as an ovulation calendar. Instead of relying on a basic 12-month calendar to tell you when your window of baby-making opportunity will open, Cycle Beads - a string of 32 beads that looks just like a necklace - can help you keep track. Cycle Beads include one red bead, which represents the first day of your period as well as the first day of your cycle; 19 brown beads, which signify the days when you are very unlikely to get pregnant; and 12 white beads to remind you of each of your fertile days. As an extra reminder, the white beads even glow in the dark! On the first day of your period, you simply place the rubber ring on the red bead to represent the first day of your cycle. The following day, you move the ring to the next bead (an arrow shows you in which direction). Continue to move the ring forward by one bead every day until your cycle is complete, and repeat until you and your partner have reached pregnancy success!

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