Count the beads, identify their colours and control your fertility.

CycleBeads, a simple, inexpensive, non-clinical and easy-to-use natural family planning method, could well be the answer to the problem of burgeoning population of India — the second-most populous nation that recently welcomed the footfall of world's seven billionth baby on its soil.

Developed by researchers at Georgetown University's Institute for Reproductive Health, Cyclebeads is based on the Standard Days Method (SDM) and is claimed to be a very effective method for women to prevent unplanned pregnancies. This method is designed for women with cycles between 26 and 32 days.

CycleBeads is a colour-coded string of beads that represents the days of a woman's menstrual cycle. A woman simply moves a ring over the beads to track each day of her cycle. The colour of the beads lets her know whether she is on a day when she is fertile or not.

For using this technology, a woman has to put the rubber ring on the red bead on the day she starts her period. Each day she moves the ring one bead. While the ring is on a red or dark bead, there is little possibility of pregnancy and thus safe for intercourse. When the ring is on a white bead — Days 8 through 19 — there is a high possibility of becoming pregnant, with unprotected intercourse.

CycleBeads are manufactured and distributed in India by the Government of India-owned HLL Lifecare Ltd (HLL), the largest contraceptive manufacturer and leader in innovative family planning healthcare products, through an agreement between HLL and Cycle Technologies (US), the original licensee.

“HLL has been doing the manufacturing operations for the product as per the specifications of Cycle Technologies and distributing the product to Institute of Reproductive Health (IRH) and HLFPPT (Hindustan Latex Family Planning Promotion Trust) under the brand names of ‘Mala Chakra' and ‘Ritumala' respectively,” said HLL Lifecare Chairman and Managing Director M. Ayyappan.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who formally launched CycleBeads at a function here recently, said: “Along with Hindi and English, we should introduce supporting literature for this product in Urdu so that Urdu-speaking people from rural areas also get benefit.”

With 95 per cent effectiveness, it is comparable to other modern user-directed contraceptive methods. Moreover, this is suited to Indian family planning needs as it is natural, simple, and easy to use method that does not require re-supplies, thereby improving access to family planning, claimed Mr. Ayyappan.

India, with a high unmet need for family planning (as high as 14.1 per cent in rural areas) and low contraceptive use, is expected benefit enormously from inclusion of CycleBeads, as it is designed to complement the government's efforts at population control and stabilization.

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