This is a guest post by Christy of fountains of home in the Women Speak on NFP series. In this series you will hear from women using various methods of NFP, some to avoid pregnancy, some trying to conceive, and their experiences.
Disclaimer: This series is not meant to be a substitute for any method of training in NFP! If you are interested in one of the methods introduced in this series, please contact a certified instructor for information about training in that method of NFP.
In the almost seven years of my married life I’ve come to learn much more about NFP and the science behind it than I ever thought I would! Of course I should also say that I’ve learnt a whole lot more of what it takes to practice NFP on a daily basis and how it can really become part of one’s lifestyle. I think the choice of NFP method is a very important decision for a woman to make, not only because it effects her life, but also the life of her husband and family so intimately. And its been my experience that because NFP is a part of your life day in and day out that it should be as simple to live as possible and must be a method that gives confidence!
Although my experience with natural family planning has been anything but easy or straightforward, I am thankful for the knowledge I’ve somehow accumulated over that time. Most of that knowledge has come directly from practicing the Billings Ovulation Method. In what’s become a strange hobby of mine – researching different natural family planning methods, I’ve come to believe that Billings offers a confident and reliable, yet simple, approach to fertility awareness.
Here’s How it Works
Billings teaches you to recognize the natural signs of your own fertility throughout the course of your cycle. This happens simply by observing throughout your day any sensations of discharge felt at the vulva and any visible signs of cervical mucus. (I know, I know, gross words-we just have to get over that!) These signs are recorded in the woman’s own descriptive words on her chart and when there becomes a developing, changing pattern of mucus this indicates the woman’s fertile phase. Billings clearly identifies the Peak day of a woman’s fertility, the day ovulation most likely will occur, by the recording of a sensation of slippery followed by a day of dryness. After a Peak is determined the fertile phase of the cycle is over.
No thermometers or monitors are needed, there are no specified times of the day where you have to check things, and no clinical observations that you have to match with what you yourself are seeing. Just your own observations in your own words as you go about your day as you normally would, as the mucus has been proven to be the best indicator of fertility. Simple.
Once a woman becomes aware of the sensations of her body and begins to recognize and identify differing types of mucus the 4 Rules of the Billings method can be applied. These four simple rules are applied through all stages of a woman’s reproductive life including breastfeeding, menopause, and during different health issues. These rules are simply applied throughout the cycle and are easy for both husband and wife to understand. Of course these rules can be applied either way-in avoiding conception or in trying to achieve a pregnancy.
This is just a broad overview on how the Billings method works, charting with a trained instructor who can help identify and navigate your individual cycle is a really great way to learn and is the recommended route if you want to practice this method.
What I Tell My Friends
I love that the science behind Billings is ridiculous. And I mean ridiculously good.
This method was developed by a husband and wife team of doctors, Drs. John and Evelyn Billings, who studied hundreds of thousands of woman’s cycles. From there they discovered that the cervical mucus of healthy women was always right in indicating the changing hormonal levels throughout their cycles, thus making way for determining patterns of fertility and non-fertility. The research began over 50 years ago and more and more studies, trials, and discoveries regarding what impacts woman’s cycles are still being done by doctors involved with the Billings Ovulation Method. The Billings method has been endorsed and validated by the World Health Organization, and even China has recognized the Billings method as an approved way of family planning. The effectiveness of the method when taught and practiced properly has been found to be much higher than the pill and condoms.
Practicing the Billings method is also a great way of monitoring not only your reproductive health but your health as a whole. More and more recent research and work with women who practice the Billings method is revealing how charting can be the earliest detector in a myriad of health issues including diabetes, thyroid issues, and many other health concerns. Charting is also a great way to monitor your reproductive health even through health issues such as cysts, polyps, endometriosis, etc. Personally I know that without charting I would not have discovered my own health concerns as the symptoms only appeared in my charting.
The Billings method treats all woman as unique individuals. This may at first glance seem trivial. The Billings method teaches that each woman can recognize her own signs of fertility without the need of objectifying or classifying her symptoms into predetermined categories or descriptors. A woman’s cycle is also always treated individually. Whether long or short, a cycle is treated as unique and a woman’s signs of fertility as recognizable no matter what day they may appear. This attitude reflects the importance of the individual woman, and not only her health but also her individual circumstances, spirituality, and family situation. The woman is never made to fit the method, the method simply works with the woman.
I feel that this approach is very appropriate because natural family planning has grown out of the belief of the inherent dignity and importance of the human person. The respect for life which is reflected in the rejection of artificial birth control and in turn the openness to life reaffirms the importance of the woman’s, the couple’s, and the family’s, individual participation in God’s creation which can only happen on an individual basis. By treating a woman as an individual even in the method itself the truth of the individual woman’s importance and dignity is reflected. This truth impacts the woman’s spirituality and her relationship with God which is a key part of her openness to life and the decisions she makes in regards to natural family planning.
Natural family planning is not easy, but it is rewarding for so many reasons. Being free from the chemicals of artificial contraception, the deeper intimacy and self-giving that the practice of NFP brings to spouses, the cooperation with God’s plan and openness to children, can bring so much to our lives. The choice not only to use NFP but also the choice of what method to use is an important one for women, their husbands, and families. For me the simplicity of the Billings method as well as the confidence the science of the method gives me makes natural family planning a little easier, and when something demands so much of you like natural family planning does its nice to find a method that suits you!
For more information:
http://www.boma-usa.org (To find teachers in the US)
http://www.billingslife.ca (To find teachers in Canada)
Christy Isinger is a full-time, at-home, sometimes crazy mom to five(!) children aged 5 to newborn. She herds toddlers and tries to keep a chaotic but loving home in northern Alberta, Canada. You can keep up with the craziness at her blog fountains of home where she writes about family, living the Catholic faith, books, and other random observations and opinions.