A recent document prepared by the NFP Secretariat of the Australian CatholicSocial Welfare Commission (ACSWC) contains several recommendations relatedto the service and delivery of service of natural family planning methods. A teamof coordinators has been elected who will work closely with both hoand Sympto-Thermal Method groups of NFP teachers. These co-ordinatorsare mostly teachers of one or other method, and therefore it is desirable that as faras possible, they all should understand the methods of natural family planning otherthan their own. One of the suggestions made by the Secretariat of the ACSWC wasthat all teachersshould teach all methods and then invite the couples to choose theone they wish to use. This point needs analysis in the light of the history of themethodologies and in the development of the Ovulation Method™ (Billings). TheWorld Health Organization (WHO) attached the name of Billings to the Ovulation Method™ so that its authenticity could be preserved.
Woman is unique amongst females of all species in that her reproductive capacity ends in middle life. There is a progressive decline of fertility until, at about the age of 45 to 50 years, when perhaps she has another 25 or 30 years of active life ahead of her, she become infertile. The years during which fertility decreases are known as the climacteric (change of life). The term “menopause” is more strictly applied to the cessation of the menstrual bleeds.
Before the development of the Billings Ovulation Method®, the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle presented insoluble problems, so far as techniques of natural family planning were concerned. There was no dependable solution other than total abstinence, sometimes very prolonged abstinence, as there are a number of situations when ovulation may be suspended for a considerable period of time, even several months or perhaps a year or more. Some thought that natural methods could never provide an answer for the pre-ovulatory phase because of uncertainty about sperm survival time. The solution came from recognition of the fact that the cervical mucus not only gives warning of the approach of ovulation, but is of fundamental importance to the time of sperm survival. A fundamental concept of the Billings Ovulation Method® is that of the Basic Infertile Pattern (BIP) during the pre-ovulatory phase of the cycle. The recognition of her Basic Infertile Pattern is the key to the woman’s understanding and management of the prolonged pre-ovulatory situation.
A look at how the Billings Ovulation Method® can be used to regulate fertility whilst breastfeeding and managing the return to regular ovulatory cycles.
Production of breast milk is controlled by the hormone prolactin which is produced in the anterior pituitary gland. During pregnancy the levels of prolactin rise 35-fold* over pre-pregnancy levels. Following birth the levels of prolactin begin to fall. The rate at which the prolactin falls relates to the frequency of suckling of the baby at the breast. If the baby suckles frequently, deriving all nourishment from the breast, prolactin levels will usually remain high. As the length of time between feeds increases and the amount of milk consumed decreases (as other foods are introduced) the levels of prolactin will fall, spiking up at each feed and dropping between feeds.
In many centres around the world where the Billings Ovulation Method® is taught, a majority of the couples presenting for instruction come for assistance in achieving a pregnancy. This was not so much the case in the past and is perhaps a measure of the rising infertility in the community, but also a recognition that natural methods of regulating fertility can be of great assistance in this regard.
The benefits to both mother and child which result from breast-feeding provide a good example of the wisdom of living in accordance with the laws of nature. The Billings Ovulation Method® is very appropriate for use during lactation because it provides for the recognition of infertility in the absence of ovulation – it is just as easy to recognize infertility as it is to recognize fertility, and to learn rules which can be applied in either circumstance.