Standard Days Method

As a natural family planning option, one method that is increasingly being favoured by many woman all over the world is the standard days method. It is a simple, easy to use and better method of natural, safe birth control for those couples that are not comfortable with other contraceptives.

What is the Standard Days Method?

This method of natural birth control helps you figure out the fertile days of your cycle when you are most likely to get pregnant. Unlike other fertility awareness methods, such as the rhythm method where you have to keep a track of at least six menstruation cycles before you can predict your days of ovulation, the standard days method can be effective from the very first cycle.

This method works best for women with a 26 to 32 day cycle. It identifies day 8 to 19 as the days when you are most fertile and should either abstain from intercourse or use other methods of birth control, like a condom. All the other days of the cycle are deemed "safe," as the chances of conception are very low.

To help you keep track of your cycle days and to know when you are most fertile, the standard days method can be used with a visual aid called CycleBeads.

How Does it Work?

The standard days method is based on certain statistics that have been collected after observing many women and their cycles. It has been found that, in general, the chance of getting pregnant for a woman increases as she approaches the day of ovulation. While 5 days before ovulation the likelihood of pregnancy is about 4%, just 2 days before ovulation it increases to 20 to 25%. But by the day of ovulation it begins to decrease to 8 to 9% and finally falling to 0% 24 hours after ovulation. Therefore, the Standard Days Method works on the assumption that you can only become pregnant in a given month for 6 to 7 days before ovulation.

Ovulation also occurs in most women around the mid point of any cycle. If you have a 28-day cycle, there is a 30% chance that you will ovulate exactly on the 14th day; 60% chance of ovulating one day before or after your mid-cycle point and about a 78% chance that ovulation will occur 2 days before or 2 days after the mid-cycle.

These statistics help predict that, for any woman, with a 26 to 32 day cycle, the days when she has to abstain from intercourse in order to avoid pregnancy are from day 8 to day 19.

Who Can Use It?

As this method requires you to have a regular cycle of 26 to 32 days, this particular type of birth control cannot be used by women with irregular cycles or with cycles longer or shorter than the specified time. Practicing this method when you have irregular periods or a cycle that does not fall within the 26 to 32 day window will increase your chances of pregnancy.

The awareness and willingness of both partners is also very important to increase the efficacy of the method, as you will need to avoid intercourse or use another form of effective birth control, like a diaphragm, during your fertile days.

Using this Method

To start practicing this kind of birth control, you will first need to know the length of your cycle. Once that is known, you can go through the following process:

  • Mark the first day of your period as day 1 of your cycle
  • Through to day seven of your cycle you are in an infertile phase where having unprotected sex should not result in a pregnancy
  • From day 8 to day 19 you are in a fertile phase when you will need to use a birth control method, like the sponge, or abstain from intercourse
  • From day 20 to your period, your postovulatory infertile phase begins and you can again have unprotected intercourse

Many women use a 32 colour coded string of beads, called CycleBeads, to keep a track of their cycle and know when they are in a fertile or infertile phase.

How to Use CycleBeads

CycleBeads are an easy visual aid for this natural family planning method. Consisting of 32 beads to represent each day of your cycle, they are coloured differently to help you quickly identify what phase of your cycle you are in. A single red bead marks the first day of your period and your cycle while the brown beads show the days when pregnancy is most unlikely. White beads signify the fertile phase and the days when you have to be careful if you want to avoid pregnancy.

Along with the beads, there is a movable rubber ring attached to the cyclebeads. When using CycleBeads as an aid for the standard days method, you put this rubber ring on the red bead on day 1 of your cycle, when your periods start. Each day, you move the ring to the next bead in the direction of the arrow. When the ring reaches a white bead, it is the day when you have entered the fertile phase.

As soon as your next period starts, you can again put the ring on the red bead. CycleBeads can help you easily figure out the length of your cycle very and also if the standard days method is suitable for you. If your next period starts before your ring reaches a brown bead or if it starts after all the beads are finished, you will know that your cycle is shorter or longer than 26 to 32 days.


Compared to other birth control options, particularly hormonal birth control methods such as the birth control pill and Depo-Provera, the rate of pregnancy with perfect use is less for the standard days method. When used perfectly, this method has been found to be about 95% effective for family planning. With normal use, it is about 88% effective. The main issue, though, that can affect its success or failure is the proper marking of the days and whether both partners are willing to avoid intercourse during the fertile period.


Benefits to using the standard days method include:

  • Easy to learn and use
  • Cost effective
  • No side effects as it is a natural birth control method
  • Completely reversible
  • Does not require any calculations
  • No charts are required


Despite its many advantages, the standard days method also has some drawbacks:

  • Does not protect against STDs, like gonorrhea and genital warts, making it necessary to use condoms if both partners have not been tested and shown to be free of STDs
  • Cannot be used by those with irregular periods
  • If your cycle is suddenly disrupted due to stress, illness, fatigues etc., the method may not be effective as the cycle length may shift
  • Women who are breastfeeding or have used a contraceptive injection will need to wait a few cycles before practicing this method

For more information on timing intercourse, click here.

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