Will CycleBeads fill a need in the family planning marketplace? For some experts, there's no doubt. The introduction of any new method of family planning means that couples have more choices, said Lawrence B. Finer, associate director for domestic research at the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that promotes research and education on sexual and reproductive health. "Anytime you add a method to the mix, you increase the probability that individuals will find a method that's a good fit."

Could CycleBeads meet your needs? Here are a few considerations that may help you answer:

Questions for women

* Is your cycle usually between 26 and 32 days long? (Count all the days from the first day of a period through the day before your next period begins.) For women with longer or shorter cycles, CycleBeads and the Standard Days Method won't be effective.

* Do your periods come about when you expect them to? If not, it's best not to use the method.

* How committed are you to this approach? "For this to work, you really have to be motivated," said Paul Blumenthal, OB/GYN at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. That means you have to be willing to keep careful track of the date of your period, check the CycleBeads every day and either abstain from intercourse or use backup birth control on fertile days.

Questions for couples

* Do you have a sexually transmitted disease, or are you at risk of developing such an illness? Like many forms of contraception, the Standard Days Method does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or HIV. If there's a risk, steer clear.

* Are you able to avoid unprotected intercourse for 12 days each month? That means having a strategy for when nature or circumstance conspires against you. Some doctors counsel against relying on CycleBeads without a backup birth control method.

-- Alison Stein Wellner