Birth Control Without Contraceptives

 Despite the advances of modern medicine, the only method of birth control which is completely safe and completely effective is complete sexual abstinence. For millenia individuals trying to control their own fertility as well as institutions trying to control social mores have experimented with various forms of culturally enforced sexual abstinence such as late marriage, long lactation without intercourse, celibacy for the clergy, isotation of women, and strong taboos associated with menstruation, childbirth, and close blood ties. Some of these have undoubtedly checked population growth. Others may have increased birth rates by restricting intercourse to those times when the woman was most likely to conceive. Only in the last half century has knowledge of female reproductive physiology been systematically applied to the development of a technique for birth control in which sexual abstinence is timed to coincide with the fertile phase of the woman's menstrual cycle Variously referred to as rhythm, periodic abstinence, natural family planning, or the safe period, this method usually requires that couples abstain from intercourse for at least eight days approximately at midcycle between the menses.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program