What are Standard Days Method services?

Standard Days Method® (SDM) is a simple, fertility awareness method that was developed and tested by IRH in 2001 and is being integrated into family planning services worldwide. Standard Days Method services are being provided in the United States and over 22 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Given its ease of use and lack of side effects, Standard Days Method services appeal to many couples who are not currently using any method and those who are concerned about the side effects or health complications of hormonal methods. It also empowers women by helping them learn about their bodies and fertility. This family planning service is an important addition to the method mix that brings new users to family planning and helps many couples prevent unplanned pregnancy.

Based on reproductive physiology, SDM identifies a fixed set of days in each menstrual cycle when a woman can get pregnant if she has unprotected intercourse. If the woman does not want to get pregnant, she and her partner avoid unprotected intercourse on days 8 through 19 of her cycle.

In an efficacy study, SDM was found to be more than 95% effective among women who had regular cycles of 26-32 days. That means that out of 100 women using the method for one year, fewer than five of them would get pregnant using SDM correctly. With typical use, the SDM is 88% effective. These efficacy rates are similar to those of other user-dependent methods.

A woman can use CycleBeads®, a color-coded string of beads, to help track the days of her menstrual cycle and see which days she is most likely to get pregnant. She also can use the CycleBeads® app on her smartphone, or CycleBeads® Online through any internet connected device. CycleTel™ is a SMS (text messaging) service currently being tested in India.

How does SDM work (with CycleBeads)?

CycleBeads®, a color-coded string of beads, facilitates use of the Standard Days Method® (SDM) by helping women track their menstrual cycle and identify their fertile days. As described below, each bead represents a day of a woman’s menstrual cycle.


CycleBeads has a black rubber ring that the woman moves over one bead each day, in the direction of the arrow. When the woman starts her period, she puts the ring on the first bead, which is red. She continues moving the ring one bead each day of her cycle. When the ring is on a dark bead, she is on a day in her cycle when she can have intercourse without getting pregnant. When she is on a day represented by the white beads (days 8-19), she may be fertile and could get pregnant if she has unprotected intercourse. SDM works well for women who usually have menstrual cycles between 26 and 32 days long. Women who have cycles shorter than 26 days or longer than 32 days are not good candidates for this method. Also, women who would not be able to avoid unprotected intercourse on the days they might get pregnant are not likely to be successful using this method.

SDM achievements (under the FAM Project)