CycleBeads Myth: This is just for Catholics or other religious people
The Truth: While this method may appeal to people who have religious or cultural reasons for wanting to use a natural family planning method, most CycleBeads users do not use CycleBeads for religious reasons. According to our ongoing surveys, the vast majority of women who choose to use this family planning method do so to “avoid side effects”. “avoid specific health risks” and “lead a healthy lifestyle”. Learn more about the reasons women use CycleBeads according to our most recent survevy, “Why Do Women Choose CycleBeads for Contraception? Survey Results Are In!”
CycleBeads Top 10 Myths About This Natural Family Planning Method: Myth #4 - It's Only for Certain Types of People
CycleBeads Myth: This is just for Catholics or other religious people
CycleBeads Myth: This is just the rhythm method
We hear this claim a lot. Most often we hear it from people who "don't believe" that natural family planning works. We also hear it from people who advocate for other fertility awareness-based methods and think that the term "natural family planning" only applies to the practice of tracking your secretions, temperature, and other signs of fertility.
The Truth: CycleBeads and the Standard Days Method on which it is based are very different from “the rhythm method”. While people often use the term “the rhythm method” disparagingly to describe natural family planning methods in general, this is not accurate. Technically, the rhythm method is an algorithm that requires a woman to track her cycle for 6 months and then do complex calculations to figure out which days in her current cycle she is likely to get pregnant. Further, there are a variety of formulas that have been used for this calculation, but none have ever been tested in well-designed efficacy tests. Needless to say, it’s a complex, vague calculation that has never been well studied and means a lot of different things to different people. The Standard Days Method is based on a standard algorithm that has been well researched and tested and is used the same way every cycle. It is included in the World Health Organization's family planning guidance documents, in numerous family planning guidelines, and in modern reference books for family planning health professionals under "fertility awareness methods". See more in this earlier article, “CycleBeads is Not the Rhythm Method”.
CycleBeads Myth: No one wants to use a family planning option like this.
In general, most people who claim that “no one wants to use this method” assume that people don’t want to use a natural family planning method at all. Occasionally they may be referring to the fact that the original CycleBeads tool is a color-coded string of beads and that somehow this is “too different” from what people think of when they think of family planning. Well we have a surprise for them.
Studies show that 1 in 5 women are very interested in using a natural family planning method when they are given good information about these methods in the context of a full range of family planning options. And while CycleBeads may be quirky to some, this unique tool has been used by more than 2.5 million worldwide, and 75,000 women in the US alone to plan or prevent pregnancy. Of course while the initial CycleBeads tool is still eye-catching and useful, many women are starting to use digital tools such as CycleBeads Online and the iCycleBeads smartphone apps.
We hear a lot of innacurate claims when it comes to CycleBeads, and we'd like to address the most common myths about this family planning option in a top 10 list. We'll be sharing these top 10 myths and responding to them over the next few weeks...
CycleBeads Myth #1: It’s not an effective form of birth control.
Many people believe that natural family planning in general is ineffective as birth control and that they can get pregnant at any time during their cycles. Others who use symptoms-based fertility awareness methods are often quick to assume that a method like CycleBeads that does not require analysis of an individual’s bodily changes such as temperature or cervical secretions, can’t possibly work. While these two groups come from opposite ends in terms of their beliefs about fertility management, they somehow arrive at one sweeping inaccurate conclusion - that CycleBeads and the method on which they are based, can’t possibly be effective.
There is significant research that proves CycleBeads is highly effective and actually considered the most effective fertility awareness-based family planning method in terms of Typical Use efficacy.
Researchers from Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health found that when used correctly, CycleBeads is more than 95% effective. This means that it is as or more effective than other user-directed methods. Interestingly the research also determined that using this family planning method is the most effective natural family planning method among those that have been scientifically studied including the Symptothermal method and the Ovulation method. See the original efficacy study here. Read more about the research behind this natural family planning method here.
Is Your Family Planning Method Effective? The Difference Between Typical Use and Perfect Use Efficacy
Many of us have no idea how effective (or ineffective as the case may be), different birth control methods actually are. Doctors will tell you the effectiveness rates of some birth control options based on their “Perfect Use” efficacy rates and for others, you will hear their “Typical Use” efficacy rates. Perfect Use efficacy rates, also known as "Correct Use", reflect what happens when a contraceptive method is used correctly all of the time. Typical Use efficacy rates, also known as "Actual Use", reflect what happens in the real world when we factor in human error in the first year of use of a method. The chart below shows the difference in Typical Use efficacy vs. Perfect Use efficacy rates in some of the most commonly used user-controlled family planning methods:
Note that "user-controlled" methods have a somewhat greater difference between Typical Use and Perfect Use efficacy than "doctor-controlled" methods such as IUD's and hormonal implants.
CycleBeads are now available through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to international NGO's This natural family planning tool is included in the AccessRH Catalog and can be ordered along with other health supplies in an efficient, low cost manner. The AccessRH Catalog is designed to offer a huge range of reproductive health and related products to NGO's around the world. The catalog contains everything from condoms to hormonal contraceptives and includes only those products and manufacturers that have been fully vetted for quality and price. CycleBeads is the only fertility awareness-based family planning method that can be ordered through this procurement system. More information is available at www.myaccessrh.org
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are changing people’s lifestyles at a rapid pace, including how they manage their health care. Health care providers and patients are increasingly communicating via mobile technology and many doctors are actually prescribing health apps to their patients for everything from pill reminders to managing their diabetes to using a family planning method (hello CycleBeads!).The development and adoption of health apps has exploded in a short time, and continues to grow with thousands of medical apps available for mobile devices. Experts forecast that mobile health (or mHealth as the industry is becoming known) is going to change how healthcare is delivered and managed over the next few years.
Great work is highlighted in the video "A Healthy Investment: Linking Family Planning and Microfinance" which looks at how a collaborative project in India is working to improve women's access to family planning by working with community health workers. CycleBeads® is included in the full range of family planning options that these health workers proactively discuss with women in their communities. The educators can then either give women their family planning choice or direct them to the appropriate health care facility. The video was produced by FHI 360's PROGRESS Project in partnership with the Network of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (NEED). See the video here: http://youtu.be/JrvQznNBXX8
A recent survey of women who had purchased CycleBeads with the intention of planning a pregnancy, indicated interesting results:
- 80% of women using CycleBeads to achieve pregnancy, were pregnant within 6 months and most of these women were pregnant within the first 3 months.
- Of the women who successfully achieved pregnancy, more than 40% achieved pregnancy in the first month of trying and 75% had achieved pregnancy within 3 months.
- 90% of respondents used CycleBeads as their only conception aid. They did not invest in thermometers or expensive ovulation kits.
You are likely familiar with CycleBeads® as a tool for using the Standard Days Method® of family planning and as an aid for health care providers and health educators to teach about fertility awareness. But CycleBeads also plays an important role as a product for social impact. In a series of case studies, researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Business included CycleBeads among the solutions they examined to find out what it takes to commercialize a health-innovation product in the global market place.
"I was introduced to CycleBeads by a friend who was using them as her form of birth control. My husband and I were trying to conceive, and she suggested we try using the CycleBeads to help track my cycle. After two months of using the beads...success! I kept them next to my bed, so it was easy for me to remember to track each day. I plan to use CycleBeads after I deliver as my form of birth control. I have struggled with migraines for years due to the hormones in the pill, and do not want to go back to that life! I also recommend CycleBeads to any of my friends trying to conceive or looking for alternative birth control."