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Rhythm Method of Birth Control

Rhythm method belongs to natural family planning, which, though used in all the times, has never been as popular as other contraceptive methods. Statistics says that only 1% of American women relied on it in 80th of the previous century.

Often called “Calendar method”, this way of pregnancy protection is based, similarly to any other natural planning methods, on fertility awareness. That means that a woman should perfectly know her menstrual cycles, which consist of fertile and infertile days, and avoid sexual relationships at the times when she is most likely to get pregnant.

Rhythm method is based on three ideas. First of all, it is considered to be a rule that a woman ovulates fourteen days prior to her periods; secondly, sperm is said to be viable for three days; and thirdly, female egg can be fertilized up to 24 hours after its release from the ovaries.

Hermann Knaus from Austria and Kyusaku Ogino, a Japanese gynecologist, were the first to develop rhythm method at the beginning of the 20th century. However, Ogino used it primarily to achieve pregnancy, while Knaus worked particularly on discovering the method of avoiding pregnancy.

They determined that a woman has to subtract 19 from her shortest cycle in order to define pre-ovulatory infertile days, and subtract ten from the longest cycle to define post-ovulatory infertile period. During these phases a couple can safely practice sexual relationships without the use of any other contraceptive means and devices and avoid pregnancy, at the same time.

Therefore, a woman, considering rhythm method, should first track her periods for at least half a year and thoroughly take notes in order to later know her shortest and longest menstruations.

The first day of the cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding. Thus, if woman’s cycles range in length from 28 to 32 days, the first nine days of the cycle are considered to be infertile (28-19=9), days 10-21 to be fertile, and the rest of the days, beginning from day 22, are infertile again (32-10=22).

The effectiveness of this birth control method depends on a variety of factors; still, it is far from being as effective as many other contraceptives. Rhythm method failure rates reach as high as 25% in case of inconsistent use. However, with perfect use it can be effective in 91% of couples practicing it.

High percentage of failure rates has many reasons: a lot of women have longer fertile phases, or experience irregular periods; sometimes the time of ovulation is influenced by any health conditions a woman suffers from, or medications she takes. In addition, emotional health (stress, fatigue, etc.), as well as hormonal changes (menopause, breastfeeding), can also affect the occurrence of periods. Besides, it is nowadays stated that male sperm can be viable for up to seven days, not three, as it had been thought before. Any of these events can result in the failure of the rhythm method to prevent pregnancy.

On the other hand, advantages of this method exist as well: it is safe, it does not interfere with foreplay, it has no effect on long-term fertility, it does not require the use of pills, and does not have any side effects.

Disadvantages prevent the majority of women to use this method of birth control. Here surely belong low effectiveness of rhythm method, the requirement to have regular periods and to abstain from sex sometimes for 10 days, the absence of protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Moreover, it takes some time for a woman to study her periods; thus, she cannot start using this method immediately. At last, rhythm method requires cooperation of a woman’s partner, and his acceptance of periodic abstinence.

Finally, rhythm method has much in common with the Standard days method, developed later than the described birth control option; however, they should not be mixed. The difference lies in the formula of defining fertile days. Standard days method is easier to follow, but it suits only those women whose cycles last from 26 to 32 days. Days 1-7 and 20-26/32 are considered to be infertile, while days 8-19 are said to be unsafe due to woman’s fertility at this period.

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CycleBeads, developed to ease the use of this method, are of great help for a woman, since they indicate and remind her about her fertile and infertile periods. Moreover, this newer option is more effective in pregnancy prevention.

Though it seems that nowadays all the men and women enjoy the right of choice and can choose any contraception option they want, exceptions also exist. Thus, some have no other way out than to use only those methods, which belong to natural family planning, in spite of their low rates of effectiveness. Consequently, rhythm method will keep on helping a number of women and their partners space their children and plan their lives.

Ivanna


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