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Doctor's Advice | Is the rhythm method safe?

Published:Saturday | November 19, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Q Doc, we are a young couple in love, and we don't really like condoms.

We have heard that there is something called 'the rhythm method' in which a couple can have sex on certain days of the month but still be safe from pregnancy.

Is this true? One of our friends says that what you have to do is to avoid having sex at the time, which occurs around about a week after the end of the menses. Has she got this right?

By the way, my girl's menses are a little irregular, Doc. Sometimes they are 19 days apart and sometimes about 35.

A Any woman whose menses are irregular should not use the rhythm method. If you don't know when your period is going to arrive, it is difficult to work out your ovulation day.

The rhythm method is based on trying to work out precisely when your ovulation day is, and, therefore, the time at which it would be dangerous for you to have sex. For instance, if a young woman has absolutely regular menses, which occur every 28 days, it is probable that she will ovulate round about 12 to 14 days after the start of a period.

Therefore, she should avoid having sex between about the 10th day of her cycle and the 18th day. Please note that you must always count the days from the start of a period - not from the end!

But if a young lady has periods that are sometimes close together, and sometimes far apart, then working out the 'danger time' becomes much harder.

It can be done, with the aid of a doctor who is expert in the rhythm method. She can show the couple how to do a daily 'temperature chart', which reveals the likely date of ovulation. She can also explain to the young woman how she can keep a record of the nature of her vaginal secretions, because round about the time of ovulation, the fluid changes in appearance and feel.

But these techniques are not too easy to use. So unless you have the help of an expert doctor (or nurse), I feel that you should use some other method of contraception.

Have you thought of using the female condom? That is often a lot easier to use than the male one. You can buy it in many pharmacies these days. The young woman just puts it inside her vagina immediately before sex. And after having sex, she throws it away. It's well worth a try.

Q Doc, I am a guy of 18 and I notice that I have definite homosexual tendencies. This is really making me fret. I cannot sleep at night.

Could I get some hormones from a doctor in order to make me straight?

A Unfortunately, no. Homosexuality is not caused from changes in the hormones. Gay guys have exactly the same hormones as straight guys do. So giving hormone therapy cannot help.

As you are in some distress, you should talk things over with an experienced youth counsellor. Having half a dozen therapy sessions could help you to work out which way your life should go.

Q I am female, age 17. Doc, I don't know why I did this, but last Tuesday, I went with two guys on the beach - one after the other, five minutes apart. I did not enjoy it.

Do you think I will come to any harm?

A Well to be frank, this was pretty crazy behaviour. Let us hope that you are not pregnant - since it would be difficult to work out who the babyfather would be.

In my view, you should now go to a doctor or a clinic and get yourself tested for infections, particularly chlamydia, which is very common.

Why did you do this unwise thing? My guess is that you don't value yourself (and your body) very highly. You may well have been seeking some sort of approval or affirmation from the boys. That is often the case with young women who go in for multiple sex partners.

So I suggest that you have a look at some of the 50 million websites on the Internet that deal with self-esteem. Some of them offer quite sensible guides to valuing yourself (and your body) more highly.

Q I am a guy of 21, Doc. And I have never had sex. Some of my friends laugh at me because of that.

Is there anything wrong with being a male virgin? And will I come to any harm?

A No, you will not come to any harm. And there is nothing at all wrong with being a 'male virgin' at the age of 21.

In times gone by, a very high proportion of the male population were still virgins in their 20s. It did them no harm. And they avoided quite a lot of trouble, for instance, infections and pregnancy scares.

So please pay your friends no mind.

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the 'Outlook Magazine' tomorrow.