Grandma Knew – Catholic Rhythm Method As Good Contraception As The Pill

Contrary to current folk belief the idea of having sex for fun rather than just the propagation of children is not a new idea. Our forbears did know about this. And they had a good method of contraception too, being able to count. This ability leading to the rhythm method, something around and about as good as the pill in preventing conception. In fact, it’s rather better than some barrier methods – the condom would appear to have a higher failure rate in fact.

We can test this historically too. Fertility rates did indeed fall from the 1960s onwards as cheap and efficient chemical methods of contraception, largely the pill, spread. But they also fell back in the 1860s or so. For example, in France.

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This being one of the important things to understand about fertility. The large families of the past weren’t just because people were clueless about what produced children. They actively desired to have many. The aim of life being to have grandchildren, the infant mortality of the times meaning that to do so you’d better be having 6 and 8 brats yourself so as to ensure them. This is why fertility rates were at those sorts of levels two decades ago in poor parts of the world. Lots of kiddies were because desired fertility was high, not because contraception wasn’t available.

And, as here, contraception was available:

Fertility app ‘as good’ at preventing unplanned pregnancy as the pill, trial finds

The thing being that it works:

Fertility apps which tell women when they are safe to have unprotected sex may be as good at preventing pregnancy as taking the pill, a new study suggests. The first large, high-quality investigation of its kind found women who relied on an app which gives a green or red light depending on the day were at no worse risk of an unplanned pregnancy than those using some traditional forms of contraception. More than 700 participants entered details of their period history into the Dot app, whose algorithm then predicted the pregnancy risk for each day of the menstrual cycle. Over one year of use, the app had a failure rate of between one and five per cent, roughly equivalent to that of the pill and other methods.

The app doesn’t change that rhythm method, it just makes it easier to record and note the cycle. All of which is rather interesting, as Grandma knew that Catholic method of birth control does actually work. It’s the desire to use it or not that’s the explanation for those large families of the past.

Sure, the pill etc is more convenient but not notably more effective.

All of which does lead to a certain fun rumination. The Catholic strictures on sex are that it must be between a man and a woman, within marriage – yea, marriage to each other boringly – and it must be open to the possibility of conception. The rhythm method meets that last stricture so that’s OK. But as we see here, the pill is also open to that possibility of conception. Does that mean the pill’s OK by the Catholic rules on contraception*?

*No, probably not, but it’s a fun thought.

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Jonathan Harston

The rhythm method is not contraception, it’s contra-having-sex. Contraception is a method by which *having* *sex* does not result in conception. The rhythm method is a method of *not* having sex.
Condoms higher failure rate? Bollocks! I was using condoms during fifteen years of dating and marriage with no sprogging, so more than a 99.95% success rate.