Washington, D.C. – A three-year award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs to Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health will enable federally supported programs in California and Massachusetts to offer the Standard Days Method®, a highly effective, easy-to-use natural family planning method developed by Institute researchers.
In addition to making scientifically based natural family planning methods developed by the Georgetown researchers available to Title X clients, the $600,000 award will enable the researchers to test strategies to overcome barriers that limit the availability and use of natural family planning methods by individuals who get their heath care through this government-funded program.
Approximately 5 million people, the majority of them women, receive health-care services at Title X-funded clinics across the each year. Most Title X clients have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Only about 1 percent of women who receive Title X health care services currently use natural family planning methods.
Rebecka Lundgren, MPH, deputy director and director of research at the Institute, is the principal investigator on this new grant. Lundgren is also chair of the Population, Family Planning, and Reproductive Health Section of the American Public Health Association.
The Georgetown researchers have developed the only natural methods of family planning that have been clinically tested and introduced on an international scale in more than 25 years. The Institute’s focus is on easy to use, effective natural methods such as the Standard Days Method which in a 2002 study was shown to be more than 95 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
“The Institute has long taken a research-to-practice approach, focusing on feasible, culturally-appropriate ways to expand family planning choice and improve reproductive health. Our hallmark is the development, testing, and scaling-up of fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. We have touched the lives of literally millions of people in developing countries, but our opportunities to work in the have been limited by the focus of our funding. This grant is an important step toward helping women,” says Victoria Jennings, PhD, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health.
In the 2002 study, Dr. Jennings and colleagues reported the Standard Days Method to be more effective than either the diaphragm or condom in preventing pregnancy and easy to use. Based on sophisticated computer modeling of reproductive physiology data, the Standard Days Method identifies the 12-day "fertile window" of a woman's menstrual cycle. These 12 days take into account the life span of the woman's egg (about 24 hours) and the viable life of sperm (about 5 days) as well as the variation in the actual timing of ovulation from one cycle to the next.
To facilitate the use of the method, Institute researchers developed a color-coded string of beads called CycleBeads®. As a visual tool, CycleBeads helps a woman track her cycle, know if she is on a day when pregnancy is likely or not, and ensure her cycle length is in the range to use the method effectively.
A 2008 Institute study found that the Standard Days Method brings a wider range of women to family planning by meeting their unmet needs. The most common reason study participants gave for choosing the Standard Days Method was that it “does not have side affects nor affect women’s health” and also noted the low costs of CycleBeads. Although natural family planning methods are frequently associated with religious beliefs, relatively few women gave this reason for selecting the method.
About the Institute for Reproductive Health
The Institute for Reproductive Health is dedicated to helping women and men make informed choices about family planning and providing them with simple and effective natural options. As part of Georgetown University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Institute conducts research to develop natural methods of family planning and tests them in service delivery settings.
About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through our partnership with MedStar Health). Our mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis – or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization.