With so many forms of birth control on the market, deciding which one suits your needs is hard. Some have hormones, while others are barrier methods to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.
Whichever method you choose, knowing how to use it correctly is crucial for optimal pregnancy prevention. If you're looking for a natural choice, the rhythm method is an excellent option — if you understand how to use it.
The New England Women's Healthcare team understands the importance of choosing easy-to-use and effective birth control.
Leading our team are eight board-certified OB/GYN doctors who provide you with all of the information you need to choose a natural or hormone-based birth control option.
What is natural birth control?
Natural birth control is any form that doesn't involve hormones or barrier contraceptives. It's a holistic form of monitoring your menstrual cycle to avoid sex on your most fertile days.
If you choose to use natural birth control, also called fertility awareness, you're opting to monitor your menstrual cycle, track cervical mucus, and take your basal body temperature to predict your fertile window.
During this fertile window, you can abstain from sex or use a non-hormonal barrier device such as a condom or diaphragm. However, natural isn't as effective as other forms of birth control because it's almost impossible to predict precisely when you ovulate.
Understanding the rhythm method
If you choose to use the rhythm method, you need to track the progression of your menstrual cycle. You note the arrival of your periods on a calendar to pinpoint when you're likely ovulating. Most women ovulate on days 14, 15, or 16 of their cycle.
However, avoiding sex only on those days isn't very effective because male sperm can be active for five days in the female body. The only way the rhythm method is effective is to either abstain from sex in the days before ovulation or to use barrier contraception.
The success of the rhythm method depends on various things, including the regularity of your menstrual cycle, the tools you use to track it, and how your ability to reliably track ovulation.
Tracking your cycle is key
The key to not getting pregnant while using the rhythm method is to accurately and effectively track your menstrual cycles, month after month.
However, there are better ways to approach the rhythm method than counting to day 14 on the calendar, even if your cycle is always 28 days on the dot. Why? Because many factors affect the day you ovulate, including stress and exercise.
You can, however, use other tools to track ovulation effectively. Checking your cervical mucus is one of the ways to determine when ovulation is imminent.
At the beginning of your cycle, there's very little cervical mucus, and then it thickens. As you get closer to ovulation, the cervical fluid increases and becomes slippery like an egg white, which signals ovulation is right around the corner.
Checking your body temperature is another way to track ovulation effectively. For several cycles, you should take your basal body temperature at the same time every morning. After ovulation has occurred, your body temperature spikes slightly, indicating ovulation has occurred.
Lastly, you can use ovulation kits or tests to determine when you're fertile. You pee on a test strip every morning during the first half of your cycle until you get a positive result, which indicates you're fertile for the next several days. Avoiding sex during these days decreases the chance of pregnancy.
Advantages of the rhythm method
Although the rhythm method isn't the most effective form of birth control, it's an excellent option for couples who don't want to use hormones or barrier methods. It offers several advantages over other forms, which include:
- It's inexpensive
- It's convenient
- No side effects
- No doctor's appointments needed
- You don't need medications
- It makes you aware of your menstrual cycle
- You can detect issues with ovulation
The rhythm method also helps you understand your body and its changes during ovulation, which is extremely helpful if you ever want to become pregnant.
To learn more about your birth control options, call us today or request an appointment online at one of our convenient offices in Wilmington and Woburn, Massachusetts.