Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 1999
The natural way
Billings natural family planning an alternative to drugs and divorce
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The Billings Ovulation Method is to family planning what granola and tofu are to a healthy lifestyle - it's natural.
"Young couples are so into health these days," said Vivian Mendes of the Natural Family Planning Association in Edmonton. "They eat natural foods, they want clean air, they lead a healthy natural lifestyle.
"They don't want to put a (birth control) drug into their bodies. (Billings) is something natural and healthy."
Mendes and 45 others attended a Billings training and recertification workshop facilitated by Kay Ek, May 15 and 16. She was joined by Marian Corkill, a pioneer teacher of the Billings method from Australia.
The method, designed by the husband and wife medical team of John and Evelyn Billings of Melbourne, Australia, in 1966, teaches women to recognize the fertile and infertile phases within their menstrual cycle.
"It's such a natural and simple process," said Ek, president of the Billings Ovulation Method Association-USA. "But this isn't even taught in our medical schools.
"The culture we're living in, it's a contraceptive-oriented world. Doctors don't make money out of a natural procedure like this."
The method involves daily charting of a woman's monthly menstrual cycle in four phases - the days of bleeding or spotting, a dry infertile period, the secretion of fertile mucous and the post-mucous infertile period.
"Women would experience this mucous and think they were having an infection every month," Ek said. "They don't realize it's a fertile time for them."
The fertile mucous is an indication of ovulation, which occurs on only one day in each menstrual cycle. The egg lives up to 24 hours if not fertilized.
Through charting, a couple can determine the woman's fertile period and choose whether they wish to conceive at that time. The method is also effective for couples who have problems conceiving.
"This is something so natural, so good, so non-invasive," Ek said. "It's so in keeping with the teachings of the Church."
Natural planning methods such as Billings also strengthens a couple's relationship, said Ek.
"This is something that requires a lot of communication. Using this method really gets couples to talk to each other. They communicate daily.
"We have couples who do the charts together."
Mendes added, "A marriage based on natural planning is much more stable. There's lower divorce rates among couples using this method. There's commitment to one another. When you're in the contraceptive method, there's less of that commitment."
The Billings Method is slowly catching on in a society which sometimes forgets the term "delayed gratification," said Ek.
"During the fertile time, a couple who doesn't want to conceive learns to stay abstinent. This helps couples with abstinence in general in and outside their relationship."
The method, without any special prepackaged food to buy or high tech devices to order, requires only a paper and pencil.
"You only observe yourself on the external," said Ingrid Brodeur, a Billings Method teacher from St. Albert. "It's so simple and straightforward. People in the Third World, some who can't read or write, they understand it.
There are Billings teaching centres in countries as obscure as Teaoraereke, Tarawa to the bright lights and big city status of Toronto.
The method has exploded in China in recent years because as Ek predicts, "there have been so many atrocities happening to women there in the past, this is a way of women taking charge of their bodies."
The method is not 100 per cent foolproof, but recent studies from Catherine Bernard, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the Family Life Centre in India have found it to be 99.64 per cent effective.
Ek, Brodeur and Mendes, have been teaching the method for decades and have found men increasingly receptive and accepting of the method.
"Sometimes I find that it's the men who find out about this and try to get their wives involved," Mendes said.
The often-misunderstood premenstrual mood swings and post-menstrual rise in affection can be pinpointed to certain days of the month on the chart.
During the fertile phase, women are most affectionate, said Ek, who offers suggestions on alternative acts of affection if the couple is not planning to conceive.
"We have couples discuss this together, to make this decision with two feet on the floor instead of during the heat of passion."
The daily charting may seem tedious and time consuming, but Ek said it becomes second nature for many users.
"It takes less time to do this than brushing your teeth."