It’s pretty common knowledge these days that there are high rates of both contraceptive discontinuation and unintended pregnancies in the U.S. Could increasing the availability of fertility awareness-based family planning options at family planning clinics help address these issues by meeting the needs of women looking to prevent pregnancy without hormones?

The Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University is working with partners in California and Massachusetts to seek answers to this question. IRH, the Center for Health Training, and John Snow Inc. have been working with selected clinics to integrate CycleBeads®, an easy to use, highly effective fertility awareness-based family planning option, into their offerings. The experience is being evaluated to determine whether including CycleBeads in the method mix is beneficial, from the perspective of both providers and clients. This work is funded under a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs.

Right now, the study is still following up with clients. However, preliminary results from the needs assessment and evaluation have been positive and were presented last month at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Denver. Thus far, the experience has shown that:

  • There is a perceived need for a method like CycleBeads in the communities served by the clinics. As one community member said, “I always wanted to do the calendar thing (to track my menstrual cycles) but never knew how.”
  • After being trained and offering CycleBeads for a period of time, all providers and counselors found it easy to teach the method and felt that the clinic should continue to offer it.
  • Of the 30 CycleBeads users interviewed so far, what these women liked most about the method was that it was easy to use and had no side effects. They also enjoyed being able to track their cycles.
  • Barriers to method use include the fact that some women who wish to use the method are not eligible to do so because they have cycles out of the 26-32-day range, or can’t negotiate sex with their partner.

Lise Ching, Center Manager of one of the participating clinics, feels good about their experience offering CycleBeads so far. She states, "Planned Parenthood Mar Monte’s Modesto Health Center is proud to include the Standard Days Method using CycleBeads as part of the array of birth control options for our patients. We feel strongly that increasing provider and staff member knowledge about this method has allowed us to inform our patients about this wonderful, natural method. We’ve had a number of patients say that they’ve been looking for something that’s easy to use and contains no hormones. We’ve also found that providing this method has opened up our Center to women who may not have ever thought to access Planned Parenthood before. Through their interest in CycleBeads, we’ve been able to link these women to additional services such as breast and cervical cancer screening."

So far, this experience suggests that it is feasible and beneficial to offer a fertility awareness-based family planning option like CycleBeads in U.S. clinics. Like all birth control options, CycleBeads is not appropriate for all clients, but was chosen by some looking for a non-hormonal option. More evaluation results will be required before conclusions can be drawn about continuation, correct use, and satisfaction among CycleBeads users.

Source of data: Lavoie K, Jennings V., Marshall R, et al. Strategic Approach to Contraceptive Introduction: Offering CycleBeads/SDM in Title X Clinics. Poster presented at APHA in Denver, November 2010.

Posted in: Birth Control Cost, Birth Control Effectiveness, Birth Control Side Effects, Fertility Awareness, Natural Birth Control, Womens Health

Tags: family planning clinics, family planning options, fertility awareness, health clinics, health providers, unmet need in family planning

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