When you think of birth control, what come to mind? The pill of course.
In fact, the birth control pill no longer needs a description; it is just the pill. No other medication has such widespread use or far-reaching societal effects. Access to reliable contraception helped turn sex and reproduction into two separate realities, ultimately granting women more of a choice over their own bodies. Since its creation, the pill’s contribution to more effective family planning made it possible for more women to enter the workforce and plan family size.
Nonetheless, not all women can (or even want to) take the pill, so for them, what other options exist?
Natural family planning or fertility awareness-based methods of contraception can be a feasible and even desirable alternative. In fact, according to a March 2009 paper published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, more than 20% of women were interested in fertility-awareness-based methods when given information about them. But only 1% to 3% of US women are using this type of method.
The authors of the 2009 paper, Dr. Stephen Pallone and Dr. George Bergus, suggest several reasons for the limited number of users, including perceived difficulty in learning and implementing the method, concerns about efficacy as well as reduced opportunity for intercourse.
The Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University developed a fertility awareness based method known as the TwoDay Method which addresses these concerns. Its claims are that it is simple, accurate, and enables women to recognize when they should avoid unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
The TwoDay Method starts by having a woman identify if she has any cervical secretions. Cervical secretions are defined as any substance coming from the vagina, excluding menstrual blood or semen. Then, a woman needs to ask herself two questions — Do I have secretions today and did I have secretions yesterday? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, she is potentially fertile and should avoid intercourse or use a backup method.
Drs. Pallone and Bergus state in their 2009 paper, “fertile cervical secretions are clear, wet, slippery, stretching and changing in quality. Studies have found cervical secretion characteristics to be highly predictive of ovulation and can, therefore, be used to avoid pregnancy. Studies conducted by the World Health Organization indicate that 93% of women, regardless of their education level, are capable of identifying and distinguishing fertile and infertile cervical secretions.”
The TwoDay Method simplifies its approach by considering all secretions as being potentially fertile. Unlike other fertility-awareness-based methods including the rhythm method, basal body temperature, and other cervical secretion methods, the Two Day Method is said to be easy to learn, work well even if a woman’s cycle varies in length and can be started at any time during a cycle. According to an October 2004 paper published in Fertility and Sterility, 96.1% of women gave positive feedback about the method including ease of use, is natural with no side effects, effective and affordable.
The Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University states the TwoDay Method is more than 96% effective when used correctly.
Additionally, for women who are looking to become pregnant, understanding when they are fertile could be used to their advantage.
Access to reliable, reversible contraception has changed the world and, unlike in the past, the biggest advantage is that forms of contraception range to fit any woman’s needs. For those who choose to not partake in hormonal contraception, the fertility awareness-based method offers another option.