MELBOURNE, Australia, JUNE 5, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Drs. John and Evelyn Billings celebrated the jubilee year of their natural family planning method at an international conference this spring.
Recently, they shared with ZENIT information about the Billings Ovulation Method’s practice, scientific basis and growth throughout the world.
Q: What is the Billings Ovulation Method?
A: The Billings Method is a natural method in which women are taught to recognize natural signs of fertility and also of infertility in menstrual cycles of any length and in any reproductive situation.
Every healthy fertile woman knows that at some time between menstrual cycles she will observe a vaginal discharge of mucus lasting perhaps five to seven days. During those days there are recognizable changes in the nature of this discharge from day to day leading up to the time of ovulation that can be easily identified.
There are rules therefore for the avoidance of all genital contact for the days during which this evidence of fertility is recognized and for three days after what we call the peak of fertility, which we know to be very close to the time of ovulation. At other times in the cycle the woman is infertile.
Occasionally a woman may ovulate very early in the cycle, even before menstruation is finished, so the couple is instructed always to avoid genital contact during menstruation because the bleeding could be concealing the discharge [of mucus] indicating that the woman will ovulate soon.
Q: How scientific is it?
A: There is no method at all, natural or otherwise, which has been subjected to as much intensive scientific study as the Billings Method.
Our initial studies were of the nature of clinical research — the studies of women’s cycles and careful studies of the mucus secretion, especially the detailed description given by women of all their observations of the mucus from day to day. We knew that ovulation occurs about two weeks before the following menstruation, so we had a good idea of where ovulation was located in listing of this daily observance by the woman.
Later we were joined by two great scientists of international repute. One of them is professor James B. Brown, who has been working with us since 1962. He has produced laboratory techniques to test for hormones in blood or urine and Brown’s Method for measuring estrogen was for many years used all over the world. He has altogether made about 750,000 tests of women’s hormones at different phases of their cycles.
The other brilliant scientist who has worked with us during the past 30 years is professor Erik Odeblad who lives in Umea, Sweden. He is a physicist and also a gynecologist. His research has been a study of the different types of mucus produced by the cervix, especially during the fertile phase of the cycle. He has developed methods for these mucus types to be obtained easily from the cervix and recognized under the microscope.
The combined efforts of these two professors have validated all the developments that have occurred as a result of our own clinical studies and have thrown great light upon the production and the actions of these different hormones and their individual relationships to the different kinds of the mucus coming from the cervix. The scientific research has also included ultrasound studies of the cycles.
Q: How effective is it?
A: There is no method of avoiding pregnancy which is more effective than the Billings Method. It has given 100% success in some trials and consistently in recent years has yielded a success rate of 99% to 100%.
Added to that, the Billings Method can be used to help the apparently infertile couples to achieve pregnancy, because it will direct the woman’s attention to the day, even the time of the day when her body is telling her when she has the best possible chance of achieving pregnancy in the cycle. There is no other method at all which has the success comparable with that of the Billings Method in overcoming apparent infertility.
Q: What is the difference between the Billings Method and other methods of natural family planning? Why would one choose the Billings Method?
A: The Billings Method relies upon its ability to interpret the mucus pattern during the fertile phase, and at other times the nature of other discharges which may have a physiological or even pathological cause. Thus the Billings Method is able to help protect the woman’s reproductive health by her recognition of a disturbance of the normal mucus pattern, indicating the presence of an abnormality which can then be diagnosed and treated at a very early stage.
Q: What are some reasons people use natural family planning?
A: There are many reasons why people prefer a natural method. The natural method is obviously an appropriate choice because it is harmless and does not require any expenditure of money, it is highly effective and for Catholics it provides peace within the conscience of the individuals who are faithful to the moral teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church.
Today, more people who want to practice natural family planning prefer to use the Billings Method because it has clearly proved to be much more accurate and reliable than the rhythm or temperature methods.
It is sometimes suggested incorrectly that for the successful use of the Billings Method it is necessary for the husband and wife to have a high level of intelligence and that the relationship between the husband and wife is stable and happy.
However, the Billings Method has been shown all over the world, amongst people of all cultures and religions or no religion at all, to exercise a bonding effect upon the marriage relationship such that there is a growth of love, peace, happiness and fidelity between the husband and the wife. It is important therefore to recognize that the disturbance of the conjugal relationship is a special indication for the introduction of the Billings Method into the relationship.
Q: Do you see a rise in the number of people practicing natural family planning? What accounts for this trend?
A: The number of people using the Billings Method either to achieve or postpone pregnancy is steadily increasing all over the world. Our work in China, for example, has now resulted in 36,856 BOM teachers having been trained to work independently within the Family Planning Program.
At the same time more and more has been discovered and revealed regarding the ill effects of chemical contraception, whether it be by pills, implants or injections. These methods damage and all too frequently destroy marriages, such that the separation of the husband and wife may result in single-parent families, young children growing up without ever experiencing love and even their complete abandonment by both parents.
The contraceptive chemicals damage the woman’s fertility and sometimes render her completely sterile. In other cases the same medication may cause cancer of the breast, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the endometrium of the body of the uterus or perhaps cancer of the ovary. The intrauterine device causes excessive menstrual bleeding and often produces infection, which may present as pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility or as a septic abortion which may be fatal.
Q: What are some misunderstandings about natural family planning? How have these misunderstandings influenced the number of people using natural family planning?
A: Some misunderstandings are due to hostile publication of false statistics regarding the success of the Billings Method coming from the pharmaceutical industry. Misunderstandings also come from organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation and from ideas that the Billings Method should be rejected because it is acceptable to the Catholic Church.
Our own work involving repeated visits to more than 100 countries around the world have gradually helped couples to form an understanding of the sound scientific basis of the Billings Method.