28 days, 25 days, 34 days – is this really a safe method of birth control when women now menstruate all over the map? The Rhythm Method is the oldest ‘natural’ form of birth control. It was first developed in the 1930’s and is considered the only device-free, barrier-free, drug-free method of contraception. It is still a favourite for many couples today because it’s free of side-effects, natural, cheap, and it works (well, most of the time). For my male readers, if you aren’t interested in being a father anytime soon, you may want to consider using protection even when your partner claims she isn’t ovulating and it’s a ‘safe’ period. Unless a woman is very diligent with monitoring her cycle and has very regular cycles, this method is not considered effective. In fact, it was given the nickname, “Vatican Roulette,” which is a game that you’re probably not interested in playing. Where’s that Monopoly board?
The Rhythm Method is based on avoiding sexual intercourse during specific days that are considered ‘unsafe’. In order to use this method, both couples will need to be cooperative and to determine the ‘unsafe’ days, a woman must know when she is ovulating. Ovulation kits are popular today, along with the following methods.
The Calendar Method: If a woman has a perfect 28 day cycle, she may feel confident relying on this method of birth control. With ovulation occurring on day 14, she will need to abstain from sexual intercourse on days 11 – 17. The rest of the days, she can engage in unprotected sex. If a woman does not have a perfect menstrual cycle, she’ll need to track her menses for at least 6 months to gather information. Once this is done, she subtracts 20 from her shortest cycle and 10 from her longest cycle. If you work this out on paper, you’ll see that with a cycle ranging from 25 – 30 days, she’ll need to avoid sex from day 5 – 20. Abstaining from sex for half the month might not go over so well with men, agreed?
Basal Body Temperature: With this method, a woman’s temperature will need to be taken first thing in the morning before getting up. She tracks her temperature for months, and is able to identify when she ovulates based on the pattern of the temperature drop right before ovulation. Again, she’ll need to abstain from sexual intercourse for at least three days before and after ovulation, because sperm can survive inside a woman’s body for three days.
Cervical Mucus: If using cervical mucus to determine ovulation, ladies and gentleman, be very careful! Spermicides, vaginal creams, and other chemicals inserted into the vagina alter the mucus and make this method extremely unreliable. Mucus is collected from close to the uterine opening and stretched between the thumb and index fingers. If it looks like raw egg whites and doesn’t break apart, it’s fertile mucus, and it’s not a ‘safe’ time to have sex. Looks like it’s time for omelettes instead of love-making.
Ovulation App: You’ve got to love technology! Women input the first day of their period every month and the app will tell them exactly when they’re ovulating and which days they should abstain from sex. Two thumbs up for this app and fingers crossed that there aren’t any software bugs.
I’m going to wrap up with a joke that I heard throughout my four years in Naturopathic School:
What do you call people who use organic birth control, also known as The Rhythm Method?
Answer: Parents J
Hopefully you have a sense of humor and laughed at that one. For my readers who still have questions about The Rhythm Method, please feel free to post in the comments section below, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.