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Rhythm Method

What Is It?
The rhythm method is a way to prevent pregnancy by not having sex around the time of ovulation (the release of an egg during the monthly cycle). Couples who want to have a baby can also use this method to have sex during the time that they are most likely to get pregnant. It is sometimes called natural family planning, periodic abstinence, or fertility awareness.

How Does It Work?
If a couple doesn't have sex around the time of ovulation, the girl can't get pregnant. The trick is knowing when ovulation happens. Couples use a calendar, a thermometer to measure body temperature, a kit that tests the thickness of cervical mucus, or a kit that tests for ovulation. The ovulation kits are more useful for couples who are trying to get pregnant and right now are not practical to use regularly for birth control. The fertile period around ovulation lasts 6 to 9 days and during this time the couple should not have unprotected sex.

How Well Does It Work?
Over the course of 1 year, about 25 out of 100 typical couples who rely on the rhythm method to prevent pregnancy will have an accidental pregnancy. Of course, this is an average figure, and the chance of getting pregnant depends on whether a couple uses one or more of the rhythm method tools correctly and consistently and that they do not have unprotected sex during the fertile period.

In general, how well each type of birth control method works depends on a lot of things. These include whether a person has any health conditions or is taking any medications that might interfere with its use. In the case of the rhythm method, it depends on how consistent a woman's ovulatory cycle is and how accurate a couple is at keeping track of when she could be ovulating. It also depends on whether the method chosen is convenient - and whether the person remembers to use it correctly all the time.

Protection Against STDs
The rhythm method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For those having sex, condoms must always be used along with the rhythm method to protect against STDs.

Consistent abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always prevents pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Who Uses It?
The rhythm method is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy for most teens. It is often very difficult to tell when a girl is fertile, and she can conceive for up to 6 days before she ovulates to 1 or 2 days after. Because teens often have irregular menstrual cycles, it makes predicting ovulation much more difficult. The rhythm method requires a commitment to monitoring body changes, keeping daily records, and above all not having sex during the fertile period. Couples often need to practice for months to get this method right.

How Do You Get It?
For couples interested in this method, it is best to talk to a doctor or counselor who is trained in fertility awareness. He or she can then teach the couple the skills they need to know to practice the rhythm method accurately.

How Much Does It Cost?
The tools needed for the rhythm method - such as ovulation detection kits and thermometers, for example - are available in drugstores but can be expensive. Again, it's best to talk to a doctor for advice on using this method.

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