There are growing concerns that side-effects, costs, ease of use, access and communication between couples often hinder the success of family planning methods.
CycleBeads, a colour –coded string of beads, are fast becoming a popular family planning method as the battle to ensure that women worldwide (especially those living in developing countries) have access to family planning methods besides injectables and pills.
The beads represent days of a woman’s cycle and help her use a natural family planning method called the Standard Days method, which is based on reproductive physiology. A woman’s “fertile window” (the days in the menstrual cycle when she can get pregnant) begins approximately five days prior to ovulation and lasts up to 24 hours after ovulation.
They are designed for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days long. This is the one medical criteria for using this option especially if they are being used to prevent pregnancy.
To use the beads, a woman simply moves a ring over the beads to track each day of her cycle. The colour of her beads lets her know whether she is on a day when pregnancy is likely or not and whether her cycle length is in the appropriate range for using this natural family planning method.
Efficacy studies conducted in several countries showed that when used correctly, CycleBeads and the Standard Days Method, are more than 95 percent effective in helping women avoid pregnancy.
In simple terms, less than 5 out of every 100 women who keep track of their cycle days and abstain from having unprotected intercourse on days 8 through 19 of their cycle days got pregnant during the first year of using the beads.
Women who failed to keep careful track of their cycle days or had unprotected intercourse on the same days were much more likely to get pregnant. For those that used the method correctly, but sometimes had unprotected intercourse on days 8 to 19, 12 out of 100 got pregnant during their first year of use. This means that in “typical use” CycleBeads’ effectiveness is approximately 88 percent.
CycleBeads and the family planning method on which it is based, the Standard Days Method, were invented by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The company, Cycle Technologies, launched CycleBeads in late 2002 once the efficacy results were published.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as high as one third of maternal deaths could be prevented if unmet needs for family planning were to be eliminated. Unfortunately, 215 million women who want to avoid or delay pregnancy still have no access to modern contraception.
Speaking recently the International Family Planning Conference held in Dakar, Senegal, United Nations Population fund (UNFPA) executive director, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, said, “As our numbers keep growing past 7 billion, and so many (people) suffer from poverty, poor health and lack of opportunities, it is more important than ever to ensure that every child is wanted and that everyone has the power and the right to manage their own fertility.”
CycleBeads are available and being used in over 50 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.