CycleBeads is a visual tool that was developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. This device helps women use the Standard Days Method, a fertility awareness-based family planning method.
The Standard Days Method is based on the fact that there is a fertile window during a woman's menstrual cycle which begins several days before ovulation and ends a few hours after ovulation. During this time a woman can become pregnant. The Standard Days Method identifies days 8-19 of cycle for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long, as the potential fertile window. This formula is based on computer analysis of 7,500 menstrual cycles and takes into account cycle length, the timing of ovulation, the variation of the timing of ovulation from one cycle to the next, as well as the lifespan of the sperm and ovum. To prevent pregnancy using the Standard Days Method and CycleBeads, users avoid unprotected sex by using a condom or abstaining during days 8-19 of the cycle.
How to Use
CycleBeads, a color-coded string of beads that represents the days of a woman's cycle, helps an individual use the Standard Days Method, by helping her track her cycle days. Starting the first day of her period, she moves a band to the red bead then to a new bead every day. The color of the bead lets her know if today is a day she is highly likely to be fertile or not. On blue bead days, she has a very high risk of pregnancy. On white bead days, she has a very low risk of pregnancy. Couples use condoms or barrier methods to prevent pregnancy on blue bead days.
An efficacy trial found that CycleBeads was more than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy with correct use and approximately 88% effective with typical use among women who reported recent cycles of 26–32 days. This is similar or better than the efficacy of most other user dependent methods.
Women can use CycleBeads to plan pregnancy as well. On blue bead days, she is at her most fertile. Couples target those days for intercourse to conceive a child.
This method is not as effective for women who have cycles outside of the 26-32 day range. Women who are breastfeeding or have recently used contraceptive injections must wait before using CycleBeads. Many natural family planning methods require male involvement, which is seen as a negative. Efficacy, like all birth control, is highly dependent on continuing correct use.
Considerations for Family Planning Programs
CycleBeads can be included in a wide variety of programs and offered by different levels of providers without significant additional resources. It has the potential to expand contraceptive prevalence by bringing new users to family planning. The method involves men and which gives programs an opportunity to develop strategies for reaching men with a variety of reproductive health messages. CycleBeads are a low-cost, one-time purchase which can help address concerns about increasing costs for contraceptives.
According to research studies, most women can learn to use CycleBeads in a single counseling session of about 20–30 minutes. Almost all women who choose to use CycleBeads do so because it is "natural" and does not have side effects. Follow up interviews with users and their partners found a high levels of satisfaction with the method among women and their partners.
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