FAQs

A listing of frequently asked questions.



Research & Methodology of the Standard Days Method of Family Planning

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What is the Standard Days Method?

The Standard Days Method is a simple natural method of family planning that was developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The method is based on a fixed formula which indicates that women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long, are potentially fertile on days 8-19 of their cycles. If a woman usually has cycles in the 26-32 day range, she is highly unlikely to become pregnant if she avoids unprotected intercourse during the fertile period (days 8-19) of her cycle.

How effective is this family planning method?

In studies conducted by the Institute for Reproductive Health, the Standard Days Method was found to be more than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy. That means that, out of 100 women using the method for 1 year, fewer than 5 of them would get pregnant if they used the method correctly. The study also found that women who do not keep careful track of their cycle days or have unprotected intercourse on days 8 through 19 of their cycles are much more likely to get pregnant. When women sometimes used the method correctly, but sometimes had unprotected sex on days 8 through 19, 12 out of 100 got pregnant during their first year of use. Therefore, the "typical use" effectiveness is 88%. This effectiveness is comparable to or better than most other user-directed methods such as condoms, diaphragms, and other natural family planning methods. It is the most effective natural family planning option in terms of typical use.

What tools exist to help a woman use the Standard Days Method of family planning?

There are a few different tools that a woman can use to follow this family planning method:

  • CycleBeads – CycleBeads is a string of 32 color-coded beads that a woman can use to track her cycle, and identify if she is on a day when pregnancy is likely or not. This tool is used by women all over the world and was the original device used to test the method. It is a great, easy way for women to use this method and gives them a tangible device to help them. Each set of CycleBeads comes with a fertility calendar to help a woman confirm that she is on the right day of her cycle.  For more detailed information about how CycleBeads work, click here.
  • CycleBeads Online – CycleBeads Online is a subscription web service that enables anyone with internet access to use this family planning method through a computer, tablet or mobile device. To use the service, a woman just enters the date of her period. CycleBeads Online will calculate where she is in her cycle and whether she is on a day when she is likely to get pregnant or not.  It allows a woman to see where she is in her cycle and which days are fertile according to the Standard Days Method on both a “CycleBeads” visual and a fertility calendar format. CycleBeads Online will proactively send a user emails (a feature she can turn off or on as she likes) letting her know when are my fertile days, when are my fertile days ending, when can I expect my next period, and reminding her to input her next period date. For more detailed information about how CycleBeads Online works, click here.
  • iCycleBeads Smartphone Apps – iCycleBeads Smartphone apps are available on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, or Android devices. Like CycleBeads Online, the iCycleBeads Smartphone Apps use a CycleBeads visual as well as a calendar to help a woman track her fertility cycle and know which days are fertile. Women who want to know what are my fertile days, now have this information available through their mobile phones. For more detailed information about iCycleBeads Smartphone Apps, click here.

How was the Standard Days Method Developed and Tested?

To develop this family planning method, researchers at the Institute for Reproductive Health created a computer model, based on data from the World Health Organization, and determined that women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long are potentially fertile – or able to get pregnant – on days 8 through 19 of their cycles. This fertile window takes into account the lifespan of the sperm, the timing of ovulation, and the variability of ovulation from one cycle to the next. The Institute then tested the Standard Days Method in clinical trials with 500 women in three countries – Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines. They found that 98% of women were able to use the method correctly, and when they did use it correctly, it was more than 95% effective. That is, out of 100 women using the method for 1 year, fewer than 5 would get pregnant. The Institute has continued to test the Standard Days Method of family planning in a variety of studies and the efficacy has remained consistent.

How is the Standard Days Method different from the rhythm method?

The Standard Days Method is very different from the rhythm method. While many people use the term “the rhythm method” as a vague term to mean “fertility awareness” or “natural family planning” in general, the technical definitions of “the rhythm method” are complex. The "rhythm method" requires having exact information about the last 6 menstrual cycles and every month making complex calculations to figure out when are my fertile days in the current cycle.  The exact formulas however vary and the method itself has never actually been tested in a well-designed efficacy study. The Standard Days Method is simple; it doesn’t involve any calculations, and it is the same every cycle. It has also been tested in a well-designed effectiveness trial, with excellent results.

Which days are fertile according to the Standard Days Method?

The Standard Days Method identifies the fertile period – the time when a woman could get pregnant - as days 8 through 19 of her menstrual cycle. The fertile period identified by this family planning method is 12 days long because it takes into account the lifespan of the sperm (5 days), the lifespan of the ovum (24 hours), and the variation in timing of ovulation  from one cycle to the next.

Why do women choose to use this family planning method?

The most common answer we hear is that women want to use this method because it is natural, effective, and has no side effects. Many women want an easy-to-use family planning method that is natural – that doesn’t involve hormones or surgical procedures. Some women are concerned about side effects with other contraceptives, others don’t want to do anything that might impair their future ability to get pregnant. Some women want to use it for religious reasons. And others want a method that helps them involve their partners instead of one that is only the woman’s responsibility.



How to Use the Standard Days Method of Family Planning

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How do I prevent pregnancy using the Standard Days Method of family planning?

If a woman wants to avoid pregnancy while using this family planning method, she and her partner should either abstain or use a back-up method of birth control during her fertile days of cycle - days 8-19.  She should also monitor her cycles and ensure that they remain in the 26-32 day range. For a complete explanation, please visit the How This Method Works page of the website.

How do I get pregnant using the Standard Days Method of family planning?

If a woman wants to achieve pregnancy while using this family planning method, she and her partner should have intercourse during her fertile days - days 8-19. Most doctors recommend that a couple should have intercourse at least every other day during their fertile days of cycle for the best chance of getting pregnant.  For a complete explanation, please visit the How This Method Works page of the website.

There seem to be a lot of numbers involved, how can I keep track of all this information?

We have designed a number of easy-to-use tools to help a woman use the Standard Days Method including CycleBeads, CycleBeads Olnine, and iCycleBeads smartphone apps. These tools each act as a fertility calendar meaning that a user does not need to worry about keeping track of any numbers. Instead, she only needs to note the first day she gets her period each cycle and the tools will enable her to track her feritlity cycle, know when she is on a day when pregnancy is possible or not, and ensure that her cycles are in range for using this family planning method.

Can I use the Standard Days Method without using any of the CycleBeads tools?

Yes. However, research has shown that users are much more likely to use this method correctly with a visual tool. CycleBeads and the related apps have been found to be efficient, easy-to-use tools for helping women keep track of their cycles and letting them know "what are my fertile days", and "which days am I unlikely to get pregnant". However, a woman could simply keep track of her cycle on a fertility calendar and count the days, starting with her period so that she would know when she was in her fertile window – Days 8 through 19 of her cycle – and could get pregnant. She would also need to be sure that her cycles were regularly between 26 and 32 days so that this fertile period is accurate for her.

Will the Standard Days Method protect me from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

No. Like most other family planning methods except condoms, the Standard Days Method does not protect people from STIs. If you think you are at risk of an STI, you should consult your doctor immediately to find out how you can protect yourself.



Medical Requirements for Using the Standard Days Method of Family Planning

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Can anyone use the Standard Days Method of family planning?

No. The Standard Days Method works very well for women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long. Women who often have cycles shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days are not good candidates for this method. According to data from the World Health Organization, about 80% of cycles are in this range, and most women have most of their cycles in this range, but not everyone. Also, women who would not be able to avoid unprotected intercourse during the fertile period are not likely to be successful using this method.

How can I find out if the Standard Days Method of family planning will work for me?

Please take the Self Screen to determine if this family planning method could work for you. Screen Yourself.

How can I determine if my cycle length is between 26 and 32 days?

A woman does not need a record of her previous cycles, but we ask a woman to answer a few questions that will help her or her provider to know whether or not she is in this range. These questions include:

  • Do my periods usually come about when I expect them?
  • When did my last period start?
  • When do I think my next period will start?
  • How many days are there between the day my last period started and the day I think my next period will start?

If you can tell by answering these questions that your cycles are likely to be between 26 and 32 days long, you can use this family planning method. If you are still not sure, it would be a good idea for you to use one of the CycleBeads tools or a calendar for two or three cycles to determine your cycle length.  But you should not rely on this method as a way to prevent pregnancy until you are sure your cycles are usually between 26 and 32 days long.

How many women have cycle lengths that are between 26 and 32 days?

According to data from the World Health Organization, about 80% of cycles are between 26 and 32 days long and most women have most of their cycles within this range.

Why is it important that my partner is willing to use this family planning method and understands how it works?

First it’s important that both you and your partner agree about whether or not you want a pregnancy. It is also critical that both of you understand how this family planning method works so that you can decide how to deal with the days when you can potentially get pregnant. For best results it is important that both you and your partner understand that you are likely to get pregnant if you have sex during your “fertile window.” It is also critical that you decide beforehand what you will do during the fertile days of cycle you are trying to avoid getting pregnant – you may decide to use another method, such as condoms, or abstain from sexual intercourse during this time. The various CycleBeads tools can be very helpful in encouraging communication and helping your partner understand how this family planning method works.



Considerations When Starting to Use the Standard Days Method of Family Planning

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Can I use this family planning method if I just stopped taking the pill?

Yes, but not immediately. Start this family planning method after your last three periods have been about a month apart (that means after two consecutive cycles are within the 26 to 32-day range).  You should use a back-up method of birth control until your fertility cycle returns to normal.

Can I use this family planning method if I just stopped taking an injectable form of birth control?

Yes, but not immediately. If you have taken a 1-month injectable recently then like the pill, you should wait until you have 3 periods about a month apart (meaning that you have had two consecutive cycles in the 26-32 day range). If you have taken a three-month injectable, you will need to wait until the injection’s 90 day protection ends, and the next three periods are about a month apart (again, meaning that you have two consecutive cycles in the 26-32 day range).  You should use a back-up birth control method until your fertility cycle return to normal.

Can I use this family planning method if I just stopped using a non-hormonal IUD?

Yes. A non-hormonal IUD has no effect on ovulation or cycle length. If your cycles were between 26 and 32 days long before you began using the IUD (in other words they were generally about a month apart), then you can begin using the Standard Days Method as soon as you get your next period.

Can I use this family planning method if I am breastfeeding?

That depends. Wait until you have had 4 menstrual periods since your baby was born. After you have had 4 periods, if your last cycle was between 26 and 32 days long, you can start using this family planning method on the first day of your next period.

Can I use this family planning method if I am close to menopause?

Yes, as long as your cycles are between 26 and 32 days long. However, as you approach menopause, your cycles may become irregular – either shorter or longer. When this happens, this family planning method will not work for you.

Can I use this family planning method if I have recently used emergency contraception?

Yes. You can use the Standard Days Method if you have recently used emergency contraception and your cycles are usually between 26 and 32 days long. However, you should wait until you start your next period before using it.



Considerations While Using the Standard Days Method of Family Planning

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How will I know if I have had a cycle that is out of the 26-32 day range?

CycleBeads were designed to help a woman track this information easily and the CycleBeads apps make it even easier.

On CycleBeads, the darker bead on the tool helps a woman know if her cycle is shorter than 26 days. If a woman gets her period before the marker is on this bead, then her cycles are shorter than 26 days. Also, there are 32 beads on each set of CycleBeads. So if the marker is on the last bead, and a woman does not get her period on the following day, she will know that she is having a cycle that is longer than 32 days.

If a woman is using CycleBeads Online or one of the iCycleBeads smartphone apps, she will proactively receive a message on the screen when she enters her cycle, letting her know that her cycle was out of the 26-32 day range.

What do I do if I have a cycle that is out of range?

If you have a cycle that is either shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days, you should make note of it.  A fertility calendar is provided with CycleBeads that you can use to keep a record, and the CycleBeads apps record your cycle history so you can always refer to it.  If you have more than one cycle that is out of range in a 12-month time period, then this family planning method may not be as effective for you since the fertile days of cycle may be different for you. You should use an alternative contraceptive option.

What should I do if I forget to move the ring?

If you are using CycleBeads, it is a good idea to mark the day that you start your period on a calendar. If you know the date you started your period this cycle, you can go to your calendar and count the days between that date and today. Then count the same number of beads on the CycleBeads, beginning with the red bead. Just move the ring to the correct bead and continue moving the ring every day. Fortunately with the online app and the smartphone apps, this is not an issue as the applications will update your information automatically and let you know which days are fertile and which days are not.

If my period starts overnight, what should I do about moving the ring or putting that information into the app?

If you know that you started your period anytime before midnight, you should move the ring to the red bead (or enter that your period started if using a CycleBeads app) on the day that you start your period regardless of what time it is. The next morning (or whenever you normally move the ring) you should move it to the following bead. If you started your period during the night and are not sure what time it started, move the ring to the red bead or input that date in your app when you wake up and consider that day to be Day 1 of your menstrual cycle. You will then move the ring the following day.

If I “spot” immediately before my period, should I consider it Day 1 of the next cycle?

If you perceive this to be the beginning of your period, or think of this spotting as a “warning” that you are getting your period, then you should count this as Day 1 of your cycle. If you are concerned about spotting, please consult your health care provider.

What if I spot a little in the middle of my cycle?

If you bleed any time except when you are having your period, you should check with your health provider. But for many women, a small amount of bleeding around the time they ovulate is normal. Bleeding in the middle of the cycle should not affect use of this family planning method.



General Fertility Questions

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What is ovulation?

Ovulation is the release of an egg by a woman’s ovary. There are thousands of eggs inside a woman’s ovaries. The natural chemicals in a woman's body triggers the development of one of these eggs every cycle. When the egg is ready to be fertilized, it comes out of the ovary and travels down a woman’s tubes to her uterus. If a man’s sperm has fertilized it, the egg can attach itself to the uterus and the woman is pregnant.

Can't I get pregnant any time during my cycle?

No. Research shows that there are a small number of days during which a woman is likely to get pregnant – a few days before she ovulates and the day she ovulates. But these days may not be at the same time every cycle because a woman doesn’t always ovulate at the same time. Studies conducted by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University have shown that the “fertile window” – days when a woman could get pregnant – is Days 8 through 19 of their menstrual cycles for women who have cycles between 26 and 32 days long – most women. This “fertile window” takes into account the days around ovulation as well as the fact that the day of ovulation is not the same every cycle. A woman with cycles that are shorter, longer, or generally irregular, may have a different fertility cycle. You may also be interested in reading a recent article on our blog: Fertility Myth - I Can Get Pregnant Any Day of My Cycle

What is the difference between my period and my menstrual cycle?

A woman’s period is not the same thing as her menstrual cycle. A period consists of the days when a woman is actually having menstrual bleeding. A woman's menstrual cycle is the whole time from the beginning of one period until the beginning of the next period. In other words, a woman’s menstrual cycle begins the first day of her period and ends the day before her next period starts. Most women have menstural cycles that are between 26 and 32 days long, but it is not uncommon for women to have cycles that are as short as 24 days long and as long as 34 days long. The first day of her period is Day 1 of a woman’s cycle. By counting each day, beginning with Day 1, and continuing every day until she starts her next period, a woman can know how long her cycle is. CycleBeads help a woman to keep track of the days of her menstrual cycle.

Should I look for other fertility symptoms?

There are other symptoms such as cervical secretions or changes in temperature that a woman can track to help her know "what are my fertile days". While this information can be interesting, women who are using the Standard Days Method do not need to track and monitor these symptoms because the fertile days identified by the method, include all the days where fertility symptoms would indicate that a woman could get pregnant. 


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