Natural Rhythm Method — The Birth Control No One Talks About

 Natural Rhythm Method — The Birth Control No One Talks About

In 1960, the release of the first birth control pill revolutionized women’s sexuality. Free from the fears of pregnancy, women were able to enjoy sex on their terms. But the pill and many other effective forms of birth control rely on hormones to change your ovulatory cycle or stop it altogether.

Due to a family history of breast or other types of cancer or simply a concern about changing your hormonal balance, you may wish to forego pills, inserts, or injections. You also might not feel comfortable about an intrauterine device (IUD) — even if it doesn’t have hormones — simply because you don’t like harboring a foreign body in your uterus. 

And, perhaps, the diaphragms, sponges, and cervical caps feel too messy and interfere with the mood of the moment. Whatever your reasons, you’re not convinced that today’s effective, reliable birth control will work for you. However, if you and your partner are committed, you could use a 100% natural form of birth control known as the rhythm method.

At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, our expert OB/GYNs, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, want you and your partner to feel comfortable with your birth control choice. If you opt for the all-natural rhythm method, they work closely with you to ensure you use it correctly.

Do you want to try the rhythm method to plan your family? Here’s what you should know.

It is all about timing and discipline

With the rhythm method — known as the fertility awareness method (FAM) — you track your ovulation and avoid having sex during your most fertile periods. You need to have regular, predictable periods to use FAM.

You can track your cycle using one or several methods:


You must track your menstrual cycle for at least six months before relying on FAM. Mark an “X” on your calendar the day you start your period. That’s “Day One.” Then, next month, do the same thing. Count the number of days between your Day Ones. That gives you the length of your menstrual cycle. After six months, determine how many days your longest cycle was and how few days the shortest cycle was.

Subtract 18 from your shortest cycle to find the first day of your fertility window. Then subtract 11 from your longest cycle to find the last day of your fertility window. Abstain from sex or use a condom or other contraception during your entire fertility window (usually about ten days).

Cervical mucus

When you ovulate and are fertile, your cervical mucus becomes elastic and clear, like an egg white. If you remove some mucus from your vagina with a finger and then press it on your thumb, when you move your thumb and finger apart, you notice that the mucus stretches out in a thin thread between them.

If you use this method, you record the texture of your mucus daily to get a sense of your natural cycle. Note that your mucus may change if you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or are breastfeeding.

Basal body temperature

Take your temperature daily and record it on a chart using a basal thermometer. Your temperature rises sharply from 0.4 to 1 degree Fahrenheit when you ovulate. It drops again right before you menstruate.

To avoid pregnancy, abstain from unprotected intercourse for five days before the basal body temperature increases. You can have sex the day after the spike. 

Combining all three methods makes FAM more likely to prevent a pregnancy. You can also use FAM to your advantage when you decide it’s time to get pregnant: concentrate sex on the days when you're most fertile rather than least fertile.

Success depends on you

One of the appeals of the pill and other forms of current birth control methods is that they’re virtually failsafe. If you choose a hormonal implant, for instance, they’re 99% effective against pregnancy. So are IUDs.

In contrast, FAM has an effectiveness rate that ranges from 77–98%. That means 2–23 out of 100 couples using FAMs will get pregnant within the first year.

The wide range of success with FAM is due to the wide range of compliance among couples. To be successful with FAM, you and your partner must either abstain from sex during your fertile periods or use a barrier method, such as condoms.

You’re most likely to succeed with FAM if we help you determine your infertile days. To find out more about FAM and other forms of birth control, contact our supportive team by phone or the online appointment form today.


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