The Standard Days Method as a Birth Control

The Standard Days Method is a natural family planning birth control method. It works off of the idea that abstaining from sex during your fertile days will significantly decrease your chances of becoming pregnant. The Standard Days Method is based on a formula that balances the need to provide effective protection from unplanned pregnancy while limiting a woman’s fertile period to as few days as possible.

Fertility awareness birth control methods, like the Standard Days Method, can be effective contraception when used correctly. Research suggests that the Standard Days Method can meet the needs of a variety of women with varying characteristics and circumstances.

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How the Standard Days Method Works

To use the Standard Days method, couples must abstain (or use condoms or other backup birth control) during your most fertile days of each month.

To be most effective, couples practicing the Standard Days Method must recognize the importance of tracking cycle length and not having sex when you are most likely ovulating. Of all the natural family planning options, the Standard Days Method requires the least days of abstinence or barrier contraception. To successfully use this method, all you have to do is avoid unprotected sex from day 8 through day 19 of your cycle (a total of 12 days).

How to Increase Your Success

To maximize Standard Days Method effectiveness, you can use CycleBeads. These consist of a circular string of 32 color-coded beads. Using CycleBeads is simple—you move a rubber ring over one bead every day as a way to visibly track where you are in your menstrual cycle. The colors of the beads show whether you are on a fertile or infertile day. CycleBeads are also a great way to monitor your cycle lengths to make sure they are between 26 and 32 days.

According to UpToDate

“The Standard Days Method (SDM) determines fertile days using two sets of probabilities: the probability of pregnancy with respect to ovulation and the probability of correctly timing ovulation with respect to the mid-point of the cycle. The SDM is appropriate for women whose menstrual cycles are usually between 26 and 32 days (approximately 78 percent of cycles are within this range). Thus, women with polycystic ovary syndrome, adolescents, breastfeeding women with amenorrhea, women who are recently postpartum, and women in the menopausal transition often are not good candidates." "Because teenagers' cycles are typically not regular, the SDM may not be ideal for them. If you have certain issues that cause irregular periods, like just having had a baby, beginning menopause or skipping/having no period, the Standard Days Method will not be reliable. Additionally, SDM is not a good option if you have polycystic ovary syndrome (an imbalance of a woman's female sex hormones, which can cause changes and irregularities in the menstrual cycle)."

Five hundred women were taught the Standard Days Method for a research study. Then, these women were followed for up to 13 cycles. The reported pregnancy rate from the study was less than 5 per 100 women per year with correct use. The typical user pregnancy rate of the SDM was 12 per 100 women per year. Put another way, the Standard Days Method is about 95 percent effective with correct use and 88 percent effective with typical use.

Should You Use the Standard Days Method?

The Standard Days Method calculates your fertile days by figuring out when you are most likely to ovulate. Because it is one of the easiest of all fertility awareness methods to use, most women can successfully use this method. You can learn this method very quickly. So, as long as your menstrual cycle is 26 to 32 days long, you are a good candidate for the Standard Days Method.


The leading reasons that the Standard Days Method seems to be less effective include:

  • Couples knowingly take the risk of having unprotected sex on fertile days.
  • Women didn't initially monitor their cycle length (you may have less regular cycles than you actually first thought).
  • If you have frequent cycles outside of the 26- to the 32-day range—so if in one year, you have more than one cycle that is longer than 32 days or shorter than 26 days, it would be wise to find a different birth control method.

Advantages of the Method

Besides being super easy to use, many women who don't want to use a birth control device (like an IUD, implant, or diaphragm) or hormonal birth control welcome the chance to use the Standard Days Method. Another important advantage is that the Standard Days Method allows for increased male involvement—it encourages men to:

  • Abstain
  • Use condoms during fertile days
  • Get condoms
  • Help their partners keep track of fertile days

It also seems that the Standard Days Method helps to improve patient-doctor interactions. How? Well healthcare providers can use these discussions to screen for issues that may make the Standard Days Method less effective, like:

  • Poor couple communication
  • Alcohol use
  • Partner violence

Finally, this method relies on strong couple communication. So couples who are considering its use have the opportunity to explore their relationship and deepen their connection to one another.

How to Get Started

Your healthcare provider can help you determine if the Standard Days Method is appropriate through some simple counseling. Your practitioner should ask you about the regularity of your period. If your periods typically are about a month apart and generally come when you expect them, your healthcare provider should then consider counseling you about the Standard Days Method. You can begin using the Standard Days Method if you know when your last period started—if not, you will need to wait until your next period.

Surveys and research consistently suggest that women choose fertility awareness methods, like the Standard Days Method, because of concerns about side effects and health risks of other birth control methods, such as hormonal contraception. A lot of women do not consider natural methods due to lack of information, misguided beliefs about these methods being inconvenient, and/or concerns about failure rates. Only about 2% of women in the U.S. use natural family planning methods.

So, if you are looking for a fertility awareness birth control method, keep in mind that the Standard Days Method appeals to a broad range of women throughout the world. It is the easiest of all-natural family planning methods to both teach and use, and men and women report high satisfaction levels with this method.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lundgren RI, Karra MV, Yam EA. The role of the Standard Days Method in modern family planning services in developing countriesThe European Journal of Contraception & Reproductive Health Care. 2012;17(4):254-259. doi:10.3109/13625187.2012.677077

  2. Weis J, Festin M. Implementation and scale-up of the standard days method of family planning: a landscape analysisGlob Health Sci Pract. 2020;8(1):114-124. doi:10.9745/GHSP-D-19-00287

  3. Planned Parenthood. What's the Standard Days method?

  4. CDC. Standard days method.

  5. Kaiser Family Foundation. Natural family planning as a means of preventing pregnancy.

Additional Reading

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.