Natural Family Planning has been steadily becoming more and more reliable. However, little publicity has been given the great strides that have been made in the medical research in this area. We hope to partially correct this through a series of articles on the Ovulation Method, the latest breakthrough in the field of natural family planning.

Dr. John Billings, the Australian who developed the Ovulation Method, first became interested in this field because of his parish priest. Rev. Maurice Catarinich. He drew Dr. Billings’ attention to the difficulties some Catholic couples were having in using Rhythm to plan and space their pregnancies. Dr. Billings discovered that .this method had generally been taught and applied badly, and that about 80% of the population could have used Rhythm successfully. However, there still remained women who could not reliably predict the onset of their next cycle and therefore could not use Rhythm calculations. Despite this, Rhythm did offer as much reliability as the contraceptive techniques of the day.

The next step in Dr. Billings’ research took him to England to learn more about the work of Dr. John Marshall, who had developed the Basal Body Temperature Method (B.B.T.). The Sympto-Thermal method developed as an off-shoot of this, combining temperature and Rhythm calculations with body symptoms in an effort to define (more reliably) the time of fertility. However the difficulties of those who had long irregular cycles still remained. This meant long periods of abstinence for these couples if they needed to postpone a pregnancy.

More research was needed to discover the biological indicators of infertility before ovulation, and the biological indicators of the onset of fertility. In this way all women, without exception, would know exactly whether any given day of their cycle was fertile or infertile.

Dr. Billings’ search of the medical literature turned up two obscure papers on a little known aspect of a woman’s fertility – cervical mucus. Intrigued, Dr. Billings decided to research the significance of this further. He enlisted the help of Dr. James Brown, a noted endocrinologist. A number of women in Billings’ parish volunteered to make daily observations for this phenomenon, to describe it if it occurred, and to submit to Brown’s daily clinical tests to chart the hormonal events in their cycles.

When the women’s observations and the clinical data were brought together, the results were astonishing. The hormonal events which lead to ovulation correlated precisely with the women’s mucus observation. Subsequent endocrinological research duplicated these results, demonstrating the reliability of the mucus’ symptom as an indicator of the rise in fertility. Further, it was realized that the mucus itself was an essential component of fertility. This is because the mucus preserves sperm cell life, protecting the sperm from the acidity of the vagina, nourishing them, and acting as a transportation system. It is as easy for the sperm to swim to their destination without mucus, as it is to swim in a pool without water. No mucus – no conception.

The Ovulation Method was field tested (extensively) in the Third World. It proved to be easily understood and applied by women regardless of their level of intelligence, education or socio-economic background. The method was introduced to North America in the late sixties and has spread rapidly. It is now taught in over 100 countries in the world.