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
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.