Practical Solutions Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness

About a practical proposal for the use of natural family planning and fertility awareness.



Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness

My husband and I are university students who wish to delay having children for a few more years. Since I am young and at the peak of my childbearing years, I need a reliable method of contraception. My dissatisfaction with various artificial contraceptives which I have used has led me to find a less harmful and more natural means of birth control. For these reasons, my husband and I have become volunteers for the Natural Family Planning Research Study undertaken last year in southern California.

This research group is studying the effectiveness of fertility prediction by means of observed mucus and temperature changes that occur within a woman's body during ovulation. For most women, a common mucus discharge occurs partway through each cycle. It is now medically known that this mucus is an integral part of the female reproductive system and can be used to predict ovulation. This system is called the Billings method of ovulation, named after the research team of Drs. Lyn and John Billings of Australia.

Briefly, here is how it works: The mucus originates from small openings in the cervix in response to the same hormonal (estrogen) signals that direct the ripening of the egg in the ovary and the development of the uterine lining. Depending upon the point in the cycle, the mucus will undergo changes in its texture and quantity. Prior to ovulation, the mucus is felt to be dry and thick with a yellow or white appearance. During ovulation, it becomes thin and watery or slippery, causing a sensation of wetness. It resembles the clear, elastic consistency of an egg white. After ovulation, it changes back to the thick, dry state. All of these changes can be recognized at the exterior of the vagina. By learning to recognize the differences in her own cervical mucus, a women can successfully predict the exact days when she may be fertile. With this information, a couple can prevent conception by abstaining from intercourse during the predicted fertile period, which normally lasts from about six to eight days.

Another aspect of this study is concerned with another predictor of ovulation-changes in body temperature that occur during each cycle. The temperature of most women undergoes changes in level, from an average low temperature before ovulation to a sustained higher level after ovulation. The basal body temperature is measured when the body is at complete rest, right after sleep, before any movement occurs. When charted, this temperature change pinpoints the day of ovulation. Combining the notation of basal body temperature change with mucus symptom awareness, a woman can (with the support and cooperation of her partner) recognize her most fertile phases, predict these occasions, and have control over her fertility without any harmful side effects. Anyone interested in obtaining further information can contact: Natural Family Planning Federation of America, 1221 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005. The phone number is (202) 737-2688.

Maria Louisa Chavez

Venice, Calif.

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