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Sticking to the rhythm

*N.I. Issue no 88: 1980. No 79: 1979 No 52: 1977. No 15: 1974* Rhythm methods of contraception work much better in theory than in practice. Experimental failure rates are below 1 per cent, but failure amongst users can rise to over 30 per cent. Professor Judith Bardwick from the University of Michigan suggested why at a seminar on `Natural Family Planning' jointly organised by the World Health Organisation and the Irish Department of Health. Professor Bardwick argues that contraceptive methods which call for greater awareness by women of their menstrual cycle also draw continuous attention to coitus itself. But the rhythm method calls for abstinence from coitus. This basic conflict - between keeping an eye on the menstrual cycle, but the mind off sex - may account for the high failure rate in contraceptive programmes based on periodic abstinence.