Background: Many national and institutional family planning policies explicitly include fertility awareness-based methods among the method options that should be made available, but these methods are often not offered for a variety of reasons. After testing the efficacy of the Standard Days Method (SDM), which is a fertility awareness-based method that identifies Days 8-19 of the menstrual cycle as fertile for women with cycles lasting between 26 and 32 days, pilot studies were conducted to introduce it into programs.
Study design: Through 14 pilot studies around the world, ministries of health, family planning associations and community development organizations introduced the SDM. Follow-up interviews with users and other data collection methodologies were used to track user characteristics and experiences. Supervision data and simulated clients assessed the effects on service delivery.
Results: The SDM appeals to a broad range of women throughout the world. Clients report using abstinence or condoms to manage the fertile days. Both men and women report high levels of satisfaction with the method. The cross-study first-year failure rate of 14.1 pregnancies per 100 woman-years of use is similar to typical-use rates found in the SDM efficacy trial.
Conclusions: The results of the pilot studies offer guidance for scaling up service delivery of the SDM. Condom counseling can help many users manage the fertile window effectively. Because out-of-range cycles can lead to method failure, users must understand the importance of tracking cycle length and be willing to switch to another method when the SDM is contraindicated. Community providers can offer the method; within clinical settings, SDM counseling typically takes no more time than allowed in most program norms. Training providers to address alcohol use and gender-based violence improves SDM method use and contributes to better quality of care.