Couples who find the pill problematic and condoms cumbersome may be interested in a study out today in the journal Human Reproduction. The report, lead authored by Petra Frank-Hermann, a professor in the Department of Gynecological Endocrinology at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, followed 900 women who practice a form of natural family planning called the symptothermal method (STM). Frank-Hermann's team concluded that perfect use of STM resulted in unintended pregnancy rates of 0.4 percent, making for a highly favorable comparison in rates of effectiveness between STM and the hormonal birth control pill.
STM involves using body temperature measurements, visual cues, and a calendar to determine when a woman's monthly period of fertility is occurring, and it requires that a woman and her partner either abstain from sex or use a barrier method of birth control during her fertile days. The method takes a bit of learning to master; Frank-Hermann says that couples who are interested generally buy a book or take a training course from a qualified teacher.