Two recent studies conducted by researchers at the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University looked at integrating the Standard Days Method® using CycleBeads® into health programs. Results showed that offering this fertility awareness-based family planning method brought new users to family planning and increased overall contraceptive use in general. It also helps programs fulfill their missions of offering a full range of family planning options by enabling them to offer a non-hormonal, effective option. However, the studies also highlight some of the challenges with introducing a new fertility awareness-based method.
In a multi-year study and evaluation prepared for the US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Population Affairs, researchers from IRH examined the feasibility of integrating the Standard Days Method and CycleBeads into Title X clinics in the United States. The study found that while providers think the method is “easy to teach to women” and “effective,” they often found it difficult to remember to offer it to potential patients. More research is needed to understand why this is the case and to explore other possible barriers to offering the method. See IRH’s Executive Summary, “A Strategic Approach to Standard Days Method Introduction: Expanding Availability and Use of FAM”.
A research study, which appears in the current issue of Reproductive Health Journal, examined the effect of scaling up the Standard Days Method and CycleBeads in existing family planning programs in three countries – India, Peru and Rwanda. The study concludes that there is demand for the Standard Days Method, the method brings new couples to family planning, and it increases contraceptive prevalence overall. It further concludes that introducing the Standard Days Method does not adversely affect the use of other contraceptive methods. This study determined that key challenges to introducing the method on a large-scale are:
1) assessing and providing compelling evidence for stakeholders (e.g., policy decision makers) to address concerns about introducing the Standard Days Method into a broader context, and
2) simply generating awareness of the family planning method among health providers and potential users.
In both of these studies, there were substantial benefits for programs integrating the Standard Days Method into their range of family planning options, including interest from patients in a non-hormonal and non-invasive contraceptive option, bringing new clients to family planning, and increasing overall contraceptive use in general. However, these beneficial outcomes relied on health programs fully supporting the integration of the Standard Days Method, health providers being trained in counseling on the method, and providers making patients aware of it.
To address some of the challenges seen in integrating this fertility awareness-based method, a comprehensive set of resources has been developed to assist health care providers with integrating the Standard Days Method of family planning into their services. These resources can be found at www.cyclebeadstoolkit.com.