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This sounds even better than using carrot seeds as birth control, and it does double-duty as a fashion accessory! This method is especially nice because it can be used as a birth-control method or a pregnancy-planning method, depending on the woman's needs. The method consists of a bracelet with one red bead, followed by six brown beads, followed by 12 white beads, followed by 13 more brown beads. There is also a small black rubber ring, which fits tightly over one bead at a time. The red bead represents the first day of a woman's period, the brown beads represent days that a woman should be able to safely have intercourse without conceiving, and the white beads represent days that a woman is probably fertile.

To use this method, a woman pulls the black ring over the red bead on the first day of her period. Each day thereafter, she pulls the rubber ring over the next bead, in sequence. If a woman is trying to prevent pregnancy, she uses another birth control method or abstains from sex altogether on the days when the rubber ring covers a white bead. If she is trying to conceive, she should engage in intercourse on days when the white beads are covered.

Let's be frank. This sounds like hocus-pocus. But there is scientific research backing this method up: The bracelet is based on the Standard Days Method, which was developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The Institute used data collected by the World Health Organization to develop a computer model of the "average" menstrual cycle, average meaning 26-32 days long. The Institute determined that women who have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days in length are potentially fertile between day 8 and day 19 of their cycles. Then the WHO tested the method on about 500 women in Bolivia, Peru, and the Philippines. Only 5% of women who used the method correctly got pregnant. Therefore, this method is equally effective as the female condom, and 1% more effective than diaphragms or spermicides.

Okay, so it's got science behind it. This made me think it was a fancy gizmo for people using the rhythm method. I was wrong. The rhythm method requires that its users know exact information about their past 6 menstrual cycles. They must carefully monitor their cervical mucus and body temperature to calculate the exact times they might be fertile. This is much, much simpler.

Because not every woman's fertility cycle is the same, this method is only appropriate for women whose cycles are between 26 and 32 days in length. If a woman has not started her period before she has moved the ring "all the way around" the bracelet, her cycle is more than 32 days long, and she should not use this method. Also, there is one dark brown bead on the bracelet, on the 26th day. If a woman starts her period before she reaches this bead, her cycle is less than 26 days long, and this method is not appropriate for her.

There are advantages to using this method: It contains no hormones and has no side effects. Many women react poorly to hormonal birth control: They gain weight, suffer from mood swings, and are at a higher risk for blood clots or strokes. Smokers using hormonal birth control are especially at risk.

But, couples must agree beforehand on what to do on days when they are potentially fertile. Some couples choose to forego sex altogether on those days. Others choose to use an alternate method of birth control. Both partners must understand the risks involved if they have unprotected sex when they are possibly fertile.

This bracelet's brand name is CycleBeads, and it can be ordered online at http://www.cyclebeads.com.

Statistical information about various birth control methods and information about the Standard Days Method was found on the CycleBeads website at www.cyclebeads.com/reseach.

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