As mentioned in a previous article on family planning in the Philippines, birth control and sex education in this Catholic country can be difficult to come by. To combat this problem, one city started requiring family planning courses for all couples planning to get married. In Marakina City engaged couples attend courses on responsible parenting and go to a health center to discuss their birth control options. There they are offered a full range of family planning options from hormonal methods to natural methods such as the Standard Days Method™ using CycleBeads®. The couples receive their preferred contraceptive option free of charge from the city through donations from the United Nations Population Fund, the Department of Health, and other donors. After the couples are married, Family Health volunteers visit their homes to answer questions and provide support.
The following are just a couple of their stories…
Alicia & Nival
Alicia, a mother of two living in Marakina City was feeding her two children lunch when her local Family Health volunteer appeared at her doorway. Maria Rodriguez arrived to check on Alicia’s use of her family planning method – CycleBeads. CycleBeads is a color coded string of beads used to track a woman’s menstrual cycle and identify days when pregnancy is possible. It is based on a highly effective family planning method called the Standard Days Method.
Since Alicia’s home is a one-room affair, Maria could see the CycleBeads hung up on the cabinet out of the children’s reach. To use CycleBeads, a woman moves a black ring to a new bead each day. The bead’s color indicates if today is a fertile day or not.
Maria checked on the ring, and asked Alicia’s last menstruation date. Sure enough, the ring was on the right bead. It happened to be on a brown bead, indicating today was a day Alicia had a low risk of pregnancy. Maria teased Alicia about a happy night that night, when her husband Nival would come home from his job as a machine operator. “Does it mean you’ll put the children to sleep early?” Maria asked. Alicia responded with a knowing smile.
When asked what she likes most about CycleBeads, Alicia’s answer is unexpected, “I like that it glows in the dark so we can see it at night!” Alicia is also happy to have an option that works. “What more can we ask of a method,” she said, “It is effective, I am not getting pregnant, it is safe, and my husband and I are in agreement over it. We are happy we chose a natural method,” she concluded.
While Maria was visiting, she met Alicia’s upstairs neighbor who is interested in using CycleBeads. Maria sees this scene repeat itself often. Many couples have been using CycleBeads for years with no problems, and “neighbors are beginning to ask what method they are using.”
Andrea & Robel
Andrea, 27, and Robel, 31 have two children and also live in Marakina City, Philippines. Andrea stays at home to take care of their children while her husband works in construction. Andrea has been breastfeeding her youngest child, but is menstruating regularly so wants to be careful with her birth control.
“Life is hard,” Andrea says and she doesn’t want to have more children right now. Her family lives in a small room in a community of informal settlers. “The best thing about CycleBeads is its naturalness, no side effects to worry about.”
Previously Andrea & Robel had used a “calendar method”, but it was vague and “kind of like a guessing game” she says. Now that she uses CycleBeads the guessing game is over and she and her husband are happy with the results, “we are just not ready to have another baby at this time.”