I am excited to share with you a tool that I have used for years to keep track of my cycle. CycleBeads are a tool that you can use to make planning pregnancy natural and easy. CycleBeads are made up of a series of color-coded beads which enables you to track your cycle and know if you are on a fertile day.
To use CycleBeads you simply move a ring over the series of color-coded beads that represent the days of her cycle. The color of the beads lets you know whether you are on a day when you’re likely to be fertile or not. The one medical criterion for using CycleBeads is that a you should have cycles between 26 and 32 days long.
How They Work
CycleBeads are a color-coded string of beads that represent a typical menstrual cycle. Each bead represents a day of the cycle and the color helps you to determine if are likely to be fertile that day.
The day you start your period you put the rubber ring on the red bead. Each day you move the ring one bead, always in the direction of the arrow. When the ring is on the red bead or a dark bead, there is very low likelihood of pregnancy, so you can have intercourse on these days without getting pregnant. When the ring is on a white bead – Days 8 through 19 – there is a high likelihood of getting pregnant if you have unprotected intercourse.
Please note, the Standard Days Method, on which CycleBeads are based, works best for women with regular menstrual cycles that are between 26 and 32 days long. Women with cycles outside this range should use a different method of family planning.
The Research Behind CycleBeads
CycleBeads are based on a natural method of family planning called the Standard Days Method™. This method was developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.
The Standard Days Method is based on physiological evidence that the woman’s fertile phase starts five days prior to ovulation and lasts through the day of ovulation. This fertile phase is related to the life span of the sperm, which can remain viable in the woman’s reproductive tract for approximately five days, and to the fact that the ovum can be fertilized for up to 24 hours.
The probability of pregnancy increases from 4% five days before ovulation to almost 30% just before ovulation, and decreases again to 8% on the day of ovulation. The probability of pregnancy is then virtually zero for the rest of the cycle.
1. Q. How do I use CycleBeads?
A. CycleBeads are a visual tool that help a woman with regular cycles between 26 and 32 days long to keep track of the days of her cycle and know when she is likely to get pregnant if she has unprotected intercourse. They are a string of 32 color-coded beads, with each bead representing a day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. They have a black rubber ring that the woman moves one bead each day in the direction of the arrow. When the woman starts her period, she puts the ring on the first bead, which is red. She continues moving the ring one bead each day of her cycle. When the ring is on a dark bead, she is on a day in her cycle when she can have intercourse without getting pregnant. But when she in on a day represented by the white beads, she may be fertile and could get pregnant if she has unprotected intercourse.
2. Q. Can I use CycleBeads to help me get pregnant?
A. Yes you can. No research has been conducted to date to see exactly how effective the Standard Days Method is in helping a couple who wants to get pregnant, but because CycleBeads identify the fertile days, using CycleBeads can be an important first step in trying to get pregnant. This is because when they are using CycleBeads,
1. a woman and her partner can see on which days she is fertile, and they can have intercourse on those days; and
2. keeping track of the number of days in her cycle gives a woman information about her cycle that she can share with her doctor and thereby make appropriate choices to help her conceive.
Of course, there are women who are not ovulating, or have some other biological issue that makes it difficult for them to conceive. Or the man may not be fertile. While CycleBeads will not directly help them to conceive, it can be useful in helping them to at least establish the woman’s potentially fertile days and her cycle lengths.
3. Q. What is the Standard Days Method?
A. The Standard Days Method is a new, simple method of family planning that was developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The Institute developed a computer model, based on data from the World Health Organization, and determined that women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long are potentially fertile – or able to get pregnant – on days 8 through 19 of their cycles. So the Standard Days Method identifies a fixed set of days in each menstrual cycle as the days when a woman can get pregnant if she has unprotected intercourse. If the woman doesn’t want to get pregnant, she and her partner avoid unprotected intercourse on days 8 through 19 of her cycle. The Institute has tested the Standard Days Method in a clinical trial with about 500 women in 3 countries – Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines. They found that women were able to use the method correctly, and when they did use it correctly, it was more than 95% effective. That is, out of 100 women using the method for 1 year, fewer than 5 would get pregnant.
4. Q. How is this different from the rhythm method?
A. Actually, it’s very different. The rhythm method involves having exact information about the last 6 menstrual cycles and every month making complex calculations – adding and subtracting – to figure out which days in the current cycle you’re likely to get pregnant. And the rhythm method has never actually been tested in a well-designed efficacy study. The Standard Days Method on which CycleBeads are based, is simple – it doesn’t involve any calculations, and it is the same every cycle. It has also been tested in a well-designed effectiveness trial, with excellent results.
5. Q. Can I use the Standard Days Method without using CycleBeads?
A. Yes you can. CycleBeads have been found to be an efficient, easy-to-use tool for helping women keep track of their cycles and know which days are fertile and which are not. However, a woman could simply keep track of her cycle on a calendar and count the days, starting with her period so that she would know when she was in her fertile window – Days 8 through 19 of her cycle – and could get pregnant. She would also need to be sure that her cycles were regularly between 26 and 32 days so that this fertile window is accurate for her.
6. Q. Why do women choose to use CycleBeads?
A. The most common answer we hear is that women want to use them because they are based on a method that is natural, effective, and has no side effects. Many women want an easy to use family planning method that is natural – that doesn’t involve hormones or surgical procedures. Some women are concerned about side effects with other methods; others don’t want to do anything that might impair their future ability to get pregnant. Some women want to use it for religious reasons. And others want a method that helps them involve their partners instead of one that is only the woman’s responsibility.
7. Q. If I’m only fertile for a few days of my cycle, why is the “fertile window” 12 days long?
A. The research on which CycleBeads are based identifies the fertile window – the time during which most women could get pregnant – as days 8 through 19 of the menstrual cycle. While it is true that a woman can get pregnant during only a few days of her cycle, these days may not be at the same time from one cycle to the next. The “fertile window” identified is 12 days long because it takes into account both the days around ovulation and the possible changes in the actual timing of ovulation from one cycle to the next.
8. Q. Will CycleBeads protect me from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
A. No. Like most other family planning methods except condoms, the Standard Days Method on which CycleBeads are based does not protect people from STDs. If you think you are at risk of an STD, you should consult your doctor immediately to find out how you can protect yourself.
Who can use CycleBeads?
1. Q. Can anyone use CycleBeads?
A. No. The Standard Days Method, on which CycleBeads are based, works very well for women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long. Women who often have cycles shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days are not good candidates for this method. Also, women who would not be able to avoid unprotected intercourse on the days they might get pregnant are not likely to be successful using this method. So, like any method of family planning, it isn’t for everyone.
2. Q. How can I determine if my cycle length is between 26 and 32 days?
A. A woman does not need a record of her previous cycles, but we ask a woman to answer a few questions that will help her or her provider to know whether or not she is in this range. These questions include:
* Do my periods usually come about when I expect them?
* When did my last period start?
* When do I think my next period will start?
* How many days are there between the day my last period started and the day I think my next period will start?
If you can tell by answering these questions that your cycles are likely to be between 26 and 32 days long, you can use CycleBeads. If you are still not sure, it would be a good idea for you to use the CycleBeads or a calendar for two or three cycles just to keep track of your cycle lengths. But you should not rely on this as a way to prevent pregnancy until you are sure your cycles are usually between 26 and 32 days long.
3. Q. How many women have cycle lengths that are between 26 and 32 days long?
A. According to data from the World Health Organization, about 80% of cycles are between 26 and 32 days long and most women have most of their cycles within this range.
4. Q. Can I use CycleBeads if I just stopped taking the pill?
A. Yes, if your cycles were 26-32 days long before you started taking pills. If you are still taking pills and want to use CycleBeads, you should finish taking the pills for this current cycle. Then, on the first day of your next period, you can begin using the method. If you have already stopped taking pills, you should wait until your next period starts before you start using the method.
5. Q. Can I use CycleBeads if I just stopped taking an injectable form of birth control?
A. It depends. First, you must have had regular cycles between 26 and 32 days long before you started using the injection. If you have taken a 1-month injectable recently and you had cycles in this range before you started using the injectable, you can use CycleBeads as soon as you have your next period. However, if you have taken a three-month injectable, it may be a while before your cycles return to normal. You’ll need to wait until three months have passed since you got your last injection and then wait until you have a cycle that is between 26 and 32 days long.
6. Q. Can I use CycleBeads if I just stopped using an IUD?
A. Yes, as long as during the time you were using the IUD your cycles were between 26 and 32 days long. Once the IUD is taken out, you can start using CycleBeads on the first day of your next period.
7. Q. Can I use CycleBeads if I am breastfeeding?
A. That depends. Wait until you have had 4 menstrual periods since your baby was born. After you have had 4 periods, if your last cycle was between 26 and 32 days long, you can start using CycleBeads on the first day of your next period.
8. Q. Can I use CycleBeads if I am close to menopause?
A. Yes, as long as your cycles are between 26 and 32 days long. However, as you approach menopause, your cycles may become irregular – either shorter or longer. When this happens, CycleBeads will not work for you.
How to use CycleBeads.
1. Q. What is the darker bead for?
A. The darker bead on the CycleBeads is to help a woman know if her cycle is shorter than 26 days. CycleBeads are most appropriate for women who have cycles between 26 and 32 days long. If a woman starts her period before she puts the band on the dark bead, she has had a cycle that is shorter than 26 days. If that happens more than once in one year, then she should consider another alternative to meet her family planning needs.
2. Q. What if I’m using CycleBeads and I start my period before I get to the darker bead?
A. If you start your period before you get to the darker bead that means you have had a cycle that is less than 26 days long. CycleBeads work best for women who usually have cycles between 26 and 32 days long. If you have more than one cycle less than 26 days long in a 12-month period, CycleBeads will not work well for you and you should use another alternative to meet your family planning needs.
3. Q. What if I’m using CycleBeads and I start my period before I finish all the beads?
A. This is what will happen most of the time. As soon as you start your period, just skip over any remaining beads and put the ring on the red bead. Then continue moving the ring one bead per day.
4. Q. What if I’m using CycleBeads and I get to the last bead, but I still haven’t started my period?
A. If you move the ring to the last bead and you don’t start your period by the next day that means you are having a cycle that is more than 32 days long. CycleBeads work best for women who usually have cycles between 26 and 32 days long. If you have more than one cycle that is more than 32 days long in a 12-month period, CycleBeads will not work well for you and you should use another alternative. If you move the ring to the last bead and you don’t start your period within a week, you should consult your doctor.
5. Q. What should I do if I forget to move the ring?
A. It is best to always mark the day that you start your period on a calendar. If you know the date you started your period this cycle, you can go to your calendar and count the days between that date and today. Then count the same number of beads on the CycleBeads, beginning with the red bead. Just move the ring to the correct bead and continue moving the ring every day. If you are unable to determine what day you started your cycle, wait until your next period to begin using CycleBeads.
6. Q. If I start my period late at night or early in the morning, what should I do about moving the ring?
A. You should move the ring to the red bead on the day that you start your period. If you know that you started your period anytime before midnight, move the ring to the red bead that day. The next morning (or whenever you normally move the ring) you should move it to the following bead. If you started your period during the night and are not sure what time it started, move the ring to the red bead when you wake up and consider that day to be Day 1 of your menstrual cycle. You will then move the ring the following day.
7. Q. What if I bleed a little in the middle of my cycle?
A. If you bleed any time except when you are having your period, you should check with your health provider. But for many women, a small amount of bleeding around the time they ovulate is normal. Bleeding in the middle of the cycle should not affect use of the CycleBeads.
8. Q. Can’t I get pregnant any time during my cycle?
A. No, actually research shows that there are a small number of days during which a woman is likely to get pregnant – a few days before she ovulates and the day she ovulates. But these days may not be at the same time every cycle because a woman doesn’t always ovulate at the same time. Studies conducted by the Institute for Reproductive Health have shown that the “fertile window” – days when a woman could get pregnant – is Days 8 through 19 of their menstrual cycles for most women. This “fertile window” takes into account the days around ovulation as well as the fact that the day of ovulation is not the same every cycle.
9. Q. How is my menstrual cycle different from my period?
A. A woman’s menstrual cycle is not the same thing as her period. A period is just the days when a woman is actually having menstrual bleeding. Her cycle is the whole time from the beginning of one period until the beginning of the next period. A woman’s menstrual cycle begins the first day of her period. It ends just before she starts her next period. So the first day of her period is Day 1 of her cycle. By counting each day, beginning with Day 1, and continuing every day until she starts her next period, a woman can know how long her cycle is. CycleBeads help a woman to keep track of the days of her menstrual cycle.
10. Q. What is ovulation?
A. Ovulation is the release of an egg by the woman’s ovary. In almost every menstrual cycle, the woman’s ovary releases an egg. There are thousands of eggs inside the woman’s ovaries. The natural chemicals in her body trigger the development of one of these eggs every cycle. When the egg is ready to be fertilized, it comes out of the ovary and travels down the woman’s tubes to her uterus. If the man’s sperm has fertilized it, the egg can attach itself to the uterus and the woman is pregnant.
- Arévalo, M., Jennings, V., & Sinai, I. (2002). Efficacy of a new method of family planning: The Standard Days Method. Contraception, 65(5), 333-338. doi:10.1016/s0010-7824(02)00288-3 Retrieved from: https://www.contraceptionjournal.org/article/S0010-7824(02)00288-3/fulltext
- Wilcox, A. J., Weinberg, C. R., & Baird, D. D. (1998). Post-ovulatory ageing of the human oocyte and embryo failure. Human Reproduction, 13(2), 394-397. doi:10.1093/humrep/13.2.394 Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/13/2/394/876199