A recent article in The Atlantic "The New Old-School Birth Control" outlines the complicated and challenging environment for fertility awareness-based methods. The article does a good job describing the many barriers that make it difficult for women in the U.S. to find out about natural methods and get the support they need to use them. But we disagree with the author's premise that "tracking fertility effectively is more complicated than just counting days" and that she dismisses "calendar-based methods" as "just the rhythm method".
The Standard Days Method®, the family planning method on which CycleBeads® tools are based, is a calendar-based natural method and it actually addresses many of the barriers to acceptance that the article describes for other fertility awareness-based methods.
The Standard Days Method is a Fertility Awareness-Based Method
First we want to be clear that The Standard Days Method is a fertility awareness-based method. It relies on a woman understanding basic knowledge about her body in order to plan or prevent pregnancy. It does not require her to observe secretions, take her temperature, or check her cervix as symptoms-based family planning methods do. But the Standard Days Method is indeed a fertility awareness-based method; one that simply requires a woman to track the start date of her period each cycle.
The Standard Days Method is Not the Rhythm Method.
We get that natural methods in general, and a calendar-based method in particular often get confused with “the rhythm method”. But while the rhythm method does rely on a calendar, a calendar-based method isn't necessarily "the rhythm method". Read more about the difference between the Standard Days Method and the “rhythm method” here: CycleBeads is Not the Rhythm Method.
The Standard Days Method is Highly Effective.
The Standard Days Method has been proven to be as effective as other commonly used contraceptive methods with perfect use (95%) and in typical use is actually more effective (88%) than most other user-directed methods, including ALL other natural methods*. Why? Because it's so easy to use this method correctly.
*Source: Contraceptive Technology 18th & 20th Editions.
See more about this method’s effectiveness at preventing pregnancy, especially under “real world” conditions, here: Is Your Family Planning Method Effective? The Difference Between Typical Use & Perfect Use Efficacy.
Or read the original efficacy research article here: Efficacy of a New Method of Family Planning: The Standard Days Method
Women Worldwide Want Similar Things
The fact that the Standard Days Method was developed by an organization that focuses on women's health in developing countries, does not diminish its appeal to women in the US. Women worldwide have similar wants and desires – they want family planning options that are effective, don’t cause side-effects and that can be worked easily into their daily lives. This method has been used by over 100,000 women in the U.S. using the various CycleBeads tools (a smartphone app, an online service, and the physical tool CycleBeads).
This Natural Method is Easy to Teach & to Use
Furthermore, the Standard Days Method addresses one of the major barriers that the articles mentions as inhibiting widespread adoption of fertility awareness-based methods in the U.S. - the fact that most symptoms-based methods require...
“in person-training, generally multiple sessions…Plus, the few minutes it takes to measure and chart symptoms each day makes the method much more user-dependent than all of the more popular forms of contraception.”
Research has proven that the Standard Days Method, with a CycleBeads visual tool, can be readily taught to a woman in a single counseling session with her health provider or even self-taught by simply reading the instructions. It is no more complicated than learning how to correctly use a condom or how to take a pill each day.
So Where Do We Agree?
"If more women looking for a non-hormonal, non-barrier, non-surgical form of birth control knew about FABM (fertility awareness-based methods), then more of them could be practicing it to its utmost effectiveness—rather than doing it in the dark."
We agree! It’s important that women learn about effective, proven fertility awareness-based methods and determine whether they are a good choice for them. The Standard Days Method is one which is highly effective, easy to use, and easy to teach.
It does a disservice within the fertility awareness movement to dismiss scientifically proven, effective, natural methods. Symptoms-based natural methods are no better or worse than calendar-based ones. They are simply different and one method may be appropriate for one woman, and a different fertility awareness-based method may be appropriate for another. The important thing is that women know that they have options including effective, natural ones.