Tuesday, May 26, 2009
image from cyclebeads.com
While under normal circumstances people who report using "natural family planning" are about as close to my heart as college students who report using "withdrawal," I've become a fan as of late of the Cycle Beads, which are a method of "natural" family planning developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The Cycle Beads, based on the Standard Days Method, are a string of 32 differently-colored beads that represent the different stages of the menstrual cycle and when sex is likely and unlikely to result in pregnancy.
Previously, effectively using natural family planning required a lot of hassle like repeated daily temperature taking, examination of vaginal mucus, etc. For people who weren't able to keep up with the demands and accurately determine on which days they were actually at risk so they could avoid sex, natural family planning had a really high rate of accidental pregnancy.
Cycle Beads take a lot of the risk of idiocy out of the method by making it really, really easy for users to figure out when they are likely to get pregnant so they can avoid sex or use condoms on those days. The beads are cheap, too--you can buy them online for about $10-12 and they never expire or run out. There aren't any side effects, either--no loss of sex drive, no moodiness, no weight gain--but you must use condoms or not have sex on the days the beads say you're at risk or else you may have the biggest side effect of all: pregnancy.
When used consistently and correctly, Cycle Beads/Standard Days Method was found to be 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. You can read the scholarly articles here. Obviously, you must have a regular menstrual cycle for any method of natural family planning to work, but if you do then Cycle Beads are worth a shot. They can also be used by those who are trying to get pregnant.
If you want to learn more or figure out if Cycle Beads are right for you, their website has a handy screening tool you can try.