Using the Rhythm Method

Posted by on Nov 30, 2016 in Birth Control |

The rhythm method of contraception has been used for decades by couples who do not wish to risk a pregnancy. The method itself consists of observing the timing of a woman’s cycle, using that information to predict which days she is most likely to become pregnant, and avoiding intercourse on those fertile days. This method can be fairly reliable in cases where the woman’s cycle is very regular, and therefore predictable. It lacks reliability, however, for women whose cycles can not be easily predicted.

In order to use the rhythm method properly, you must fully understand the fertility cycle, and know precisely which days are the most fertile within a cycle, and must therefore be avoided with regard to unprotected intercourse. Too many women attempt to practice a form of rhythm method without fully understanding their own cycle, which ignorance can result in unintended pregnancies.

There are actually several “updated” versions of this method, which prove more effective than the uncertain practice which originally bore this name. It was as recently as the beginning of the twentieth century that a Dutch physician proved the fact that women produce an egg for fertilization at only one point in her menstrual cycle, and that there is therefore only a small window of time in which she is actually fertile. Twenty years after that, a Japanese gynecologist pinpointed the time of ovulation as being fourteen days after the onset of menstruation, at least in women whose cycle lasts for the “typical” length of twenty-eight days. In 1930 another Dutch physician—a Roman Catholic—combined these two pieces of information to introduce the idea that pregnancy could be naturally avoided. His method bears the names of the two earlier physicians, and is thus known as the Knaus-Ogino method.

The Knaus-Ogino approach advocated the use of fertility awareness and timing to help couples avoid pregnancy without using “artificial” means of birth control, which the Catholic Church, in particular, forbade. In the decade following the introduction of this method, the Catholic Church began specifically to teach it to couples before permitting them to marry within the church. This method is still required curriculum for Catholic couples planning to marry.
At the end of the twentieth century, a new version of calendar awareness was introduced, under the name of the Standard Days method. This approach, operating on the same basic principles as the original rhythm method, was published in 1999 by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, and has been proven more effective than the original.

The Standard Days method is applicable for women whose periods are regular, and last for a “typical” length of time, specifically from twenty-six to thirty-two days from the beginning of one period to the next. If your cycle falls within this range, the Standard Days method gives you a very straightforward course to follow. The first seven days of your cycle (beginning with the onset of your period) are infertile days, and considered safe for unprotected sex. Day eight through day nineteen are the “dangerous” days for anyone wishing to avoid pregnancy, so unprotected sex should not be risked during those days. At day twenty, you re-enter into an infertile period.

When used without fail, this method is ninety-five percent effective, so you should be aware of the possibility (albeit a relatively low risk) of accidental pregnancy if you choose this method. If pregnancy is absolutely out of the question, you should consider another course of contraception. Of course, if you do wish to become pregnant, the same information can be used to assist in conception, by indicating which days of your cycle are the most probable fertile days for becoming pregnant.