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Standard Days Method

Standard Days Method (SDM) is a simple, modern, fertility awareness-based method of family planning that was tested in an efficacy trial and implementation studies from 2000 to 2012. Based on reproductive physiology, SDM identifies a fixed set of days in the menstrual cycle when a person can get pregnant if they have unprotected intercourse. Users who want to prevent pregnancy use condoms with their partner or do not have sex on days 8 through 19 of their cycle.

A user can use CycleBeads®, a color-coded string of beads, to help track the days of their menstrual cycle and see which days are most likely to get pregnant. A user also can use the CycleBeads® app on a smartphone (downloadable for free in the Apple and Google Play stores), or a paper-based version

Given its ease of use and lack of side effects, SDM appeals to many individuals who are not currently using any method and those who are concerned about the side effects of hormonal methods. It also supports the user’s agency by learning about their bodies and fertility. This family planning method is an important addition to the family planning method mix as it brings new users to family planning who want to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

SDM is incorporated in the national family planning norms and policies in many countries around the world. WHO recognizes SDM as an evidence-based practice and includes it in their family planning global guidance documents. Contraceptive Technology, the family planning reference book for health professionals, also includes SDM.

Standard Days Method



In an efficacy study, SDM was found to be more than 95% effective. That means that out of 100 women using the method for one year, fewer than five of them would get pregnant if they used SDM correctly. When pregnancies occurring with correct use and with incorrect use of the method were added together, the total was approximately 12 pregnancies for every 100 women/year of method use. The effectiveness of SDM is similar to that of some other user-dependent methods of family planning.

Interested in the evidence behind this method? See the collection of peer reviewed journal articles published about SDM here.

How does SDM work (with CycleBeads)?

CycleBeads®, a color-coded string of beads, facilitates use of 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.

Instructional inserts in multiple languages and for varying levels of literacy are available HERE.

Where to Get CycleBeads

A user can start SDM right away if they meet the method eligibility criteria. CycleBeads is available in a number of formats if the user would like a tool to track cycle days. To obtain CycleBeads, visit Paper-based versions of CycleBeads are available to download here. CycleBeads is also available as a mobile app, downloadable for free in the Apple and Google Play stores.

Key Resources

Visit the Standard Days Method Resource Repository for a complete listing of resources for program managers, providers, and policymakers. Also visit the Resource Library to search through decades of publications, reports, blog posts, and journal articles. 



ENGLISH | Time to Complete: 2 Hours

This course helps the learner be able to (1) define the Standard Days Method®  and CycleBeads®  and how it works, (2) list the advantages and challenges of SDM, (3) understand the factors that facilitate or limit use of SDM, including common misconceptions, (4) describe how SDM and CycleBeads can be made more available in country programs, and (5) understand the essential steps for integrating SDM into the family planning method mix.


Time to Complete: 2 Hours

The Standard Days Method Webinar is intended for providers. To complete the webinar, first review the Power Point Presentation by downloading the presentation (available in English and Spanish), or viewing the narrated presentation (English), all linked below. A version for faith-based programs to train natural family plannings teachers is found at

Course Materials



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