Women's Health Issues and the Billings Method
John J. Billings, 11 June, 1998
Modern Society, the Media and Imposed Ideologies
Throughout human history the traditional culture and political stability of nations have been disturbed by ideologies imposed by a despotic Government, or by fashions of thought and behaviour or which have attracted enthusiastic support from an ovine group of individuals whose opinions are essentially determined by the media. One such phenomenon evident in modern society is the idea that objective morality does not exist, that moral judgements are all to be promoted and defended as matters of personal opinion and that laws can be justified only when based on a community consensus. This would mean that inalienable human rights could no longer have any permanent existence since it is those who have no firm moral principles who can be so easily manipulated by the media or even by deceptive propaganda vigorously promoted by small but well-organised social groups. All of this should remind us that if individuals are to assume full responsibility for their existence they must first learn the difficult art of thinking in the right way and with their own mind. In this way superstition, immorality and fanaticism can be reduced or eliminated from society and be replaced by good order, justice and true freedom.
This contemporary philosophy which can be simply expressed as "I will do as I like" has inevitably led to widespread immorality manifested in different ways, such as dishonesty in business affairs, resistance to an equitable sharing of the goods of the earth, cruel dictatorships and sexual promiscuity. All of these influences lead to the corruption of society. One manifest evil is the demand for the abolition of all censorship, even that designed to protect children and adolescents, so that blasphemous and grossly indecent art, films, magazines and books are displayed everywhere and spread by radio and television, accompanied by the absurd defence that "if you don't like it you don't have to look or listen". Even the fundamental right to life is denied especially to the unborn child, but also by terrorism and other violence, including the execution of political opponents. Perhaps the saddest of all is the attack made on what Pope John Paul has called "the genius of women", meaning all of those admirable qualities that are particularly evident as characteristic of the human female, by the aggressive agenda of radical feminism which would have women deny those talents and virtues which play such a part in establishing a caring society, a society that is truly human.
Promote the Dignity and the Rights of Women
Men and women must unite to promote the dignity and the rights of women, including the provision of proper health care, meaning all that is necessary to protect her physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual social well-being.
The health care must include reference to Female Reproductive Health, which means preservation or restitution of her ability to conceive and bear a child, what is called in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the obligation to give "special care and assistance to motherhood". This means that all women should have access to competent obstetrical and gynaecological services, which include appropriate care of the child in the uterus and assistance to establish breast-feeding of the child after birth. A repulsive element of the ideology of radical feminism is the demand to accept induced abortion as a universal human right, often euphemistically described as "access to safe abortion", which does not exist. Abortion is obviously not safe for the child but it is also physically and psychologically damaging to the woman, producing immediately a radical disturbance of the hormonal levels existing during pregnancy, a disturbance which does not occur in such a violent, abrupt way in the case of spontaneous miscarriage of a pregnancy. Furthermore, as is being more and more realised all over the world, women who submit or are forced to endure induced abortion always know that they have become the mother of a dead child, to whose death they may have unfortunately acceded. There is also the serious risk of remorse and sorrow of the post-abortion syndrome which may endure for the rest of the woman's life, in many cases being so severe as to lead to suicide. Her frustration and anger are even greater when the induced abortion has resulted in permanent sterility. Respect for women's dignity demands that the health of the whole woman be addressed and that all women should be helped to fulfil the vocation they desire and their mission in the world to make human relations more honest and authentic. Pope John Paul wrote in his "Letter to Women" on the eve of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September 1995, "Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity".
Modern Natural Family Planning Benefits Female Reproductive Health
There are many reasons why modern scientific natural family planning, such as the Billings Method, is of benefit to Female Reproductive Health, when a woman and her husband have the need to regulate their fertility. Contraceptive medication administered as pills, implants or injections is intended to castrate the woman by preventing ovulation and to achieve this the medication must produce a serious disturbance of the normal reproductive physiology. The normal menstrual cycle is suppressed but this effect is concealed by the manipulated uterine bleeding produced by the medication. Conception may also be prevented by damage to the cervix of the uterus so that the normal, healthy secretions essential for sperm survival and sperm transport are blocked, and there is also damage to the endometrium so that if the sterilising or contraceptive effects mentioned do not operate there is a disturbance of implantation of the embryo in the uterus so that it may be destroyed following conception. It is not surprising that such medication produces a great variety of complications, many of a serious nature and these are well known. The efficacy of the Billings Method in its application for the avoidance of pregnancy is greater than most modern birth-control techniques, such as the condom, the diaphragm, the intra-uterine device and withdrawal, and is not exceeded by any method of contraceptive medication or surgical sterilisation. This success means that the woman is protected from persuasion to submit to induced abortion following the pregnancies which occur with these other methods. The Billings Method has also proved superior to the modern reproductive technologies in assisting the apparently infertile couple to achieve a pregnancy, and this will protect the woman from the harmful effects of super-ovulation, which is so often used in association with these other methods.
Diagnosis of Developing Disorders - Understanding the Menstrual Cycle
The woman also benefits from the deeper understanding of her menstrual cycle which results from instruction in the natural method and this means that she now has a diagnostic reference of normality when such disorders develop as certain ovarian cysts, vaginal infections and so on. The woman will always know the day in the cycle when she conceives a child and this will provide for an accurate calculation of the expected date of delivery 266, plus or minus 6 days, from the day of conception, a much more accurate indicator of the expected date of delivery than reference to the commencement of menstruation in the cycle in which she conceived. The day of maximum fertility is precisely indicated by observation of the cervical mucus pattern, particularly a slippery, lubricative mucus over a few days close to ovulation, associated with an observable soft swelling of the vulva for one or two days at that time. Even in the presence of a vaginal infection, perhaps associated with a chronic discharge, the woman can still learn to identify the days of possible fertility and the day of maximum fertility in the cycle, with the help of a competent teacher. The accurate determination of the expected date of delivery of a child is protective both of mother and child, helping to prevent misguided interference with the pregnancy following the diagnosis of prematurity or post-maturity arising from unreliable calculations.
Dignity and Marriage
Teachers of the Billings Method are ready to teach anyone who asks for the information. Every woman has a right to this knowledge because it helps her to develop deeper insights to what it means to be a woman. As the young girl is maturing she is usually informed by her mother or some other person caring for her that she will soon begin to menstruate. She should also be informed that she may notice some days on which this mucus substance is leaving the body, often before she has observed any bleeding at all, and therefore become alarmed about the possibility of infection or some other abnormality. The information should be combined with an explanation of her fertility, especially that sexual maturity will mean that she will then be able to become a mother. This helps her to negotiate the sometimes stormy years of adolescence and achieve psychological maturity with a clear understanding of the fact that a woman is truly a wonderful creature. She will then be able to take this knowledge into marriage, instructing her husband that she is able to recognise days on which she cannot become pregnant, those on which she may become pregnant, and the day on which pregnancy is most likely to follow and act of sexual intercourse. The young couple is then able to respond to this communication by sharing the responsibility of deciding the family size they are anxious to achieve, without any drugs, appliances or surgical procedures. There is an ecology of the body as well as an ecology of the environment and women have become very aware of the considerable discomfort and even grievous harm that may be caused by modern drugs.
It is unfortunate that many young people as the present time become involved in genital relationships before marriage, which often lead to great emotional distress, particularly for the young woman, when she discovers that the young man for whom she may have felt considerable affection has really thought of her mainly as a sexual object and is now seeking new liaisons. Many of the young people are already afraid to commit themselves to marriage because of the immorality and family disintegration they have observed in the older generations. They are now even more afraid, as a result of their own experience. When they develop an attachment that makes them think again about marriage they are greatly encouraged by the reaction of the young male to whom she explains the story of her fertility and discovers that he is quite ready to accept the gently discipline of the Billings Method, of waiting without intercourse for some days whenever they have decided that it is a time for pregnancy to be postponed.
The woman's cycle is manifesting those days on which nature is telling her about each day in the cycle, those days of infertility before the beginning of the fertile phase, the fertile phase itself including the peak of fertility and the time of ovulation, and therefore the further time of infertility between the fertile phase and the subsequent menstruation. She soon learns that this sequence recurs in every fertile cycle, whether the cycles are regular or not, and thus gains complete confidence in this simple way of regulating fertility. Those who have reached the conclusion that this wonderful world in which we live and the many wonderful human beings who inhabit it would not be here at all were it not for the existence of an intelligent Creator will turn their minds quickly from Nature to the Author of Nature and be thankful for the messages that were implanted in her body at the time when the first woman was made.
Now the woman has attained a deep perception of her dignity as a woman and when the man learns the extraordinary information about her fertility and its recognisable bodily signs he develops a new appreciation of the respect to which she is entitled and thinks more of the loving care he wished to give to her and to the children which they see in their minds as they look into the future, knowing that they will be the product of their love for each other.
The security and the freedom that nature has provided occupies their minds more than ever as their friendship and love matures and expands into that special exclusive love that we call conjugal love, such that they want to give themselves to each other in marriage and remain faithful to each other until death, because as the young often say they realise that this love is "the real thing".
Equal But Different
For the man the wonder continues as he thinks more than ever before about the extraordinary role of the woman that she will nourish within her own body the child that she conceives, and even after birth will continue to nourish the child who is the product of their love, with milk from her breasts. It is perhaps now that the husband comes to understand more the dignity and the role of the man, particularly as the guardian of his wife and their children, his responsibility to protect them, to provide somewhere for them to live, to make sure that they are properly nourished and that the children receive an good education, to the extent that he sees in a new way that it is also wonderful to be a man. He thinks how often the woman's gift of motherhood is often penalised rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift. He recognises now how he must contribute, as a matter of justice, to making sure that real equality between men and women exists in every area of society. All types of sexual violence must be vigorously condemned just as the widespread hedonistic culture which encourages the exploitation and is particularly directed against women must be vigorously exposed wherever it exists. Recognised within the Judaeo-Christian tradition as "made in the image and likeness of God" women and men both help us to understand the beauty of every human person, but do so in a different and complementary way.
Even those women who do not bear children still retain what is truly to be described, as a maternal instinct so that in whatever work they undertake they will still exercise a kind of psychological and spiritual motherhood, and bring to all the enterprises in which they may become engaged, even far removed from family life, a point of view and an influence which is truly feminine. As a consequence they make a contribution which would otherwise be lacking . It is especially the woman who teaches us all to be compassionate, to exercise care for the disadvantaged people of the world, especially the children, reminding us that we should all make an effort to undertake some activities which can only be described as a service of love. If this fact can be learned it will grow immensely in stature and reveal the truth of the words of the Second Vatican Council that human beings cannot fully find themselves "except through a sincere gift of self" (Gaudium et Spes, 24).
It is true that feminine behaviour and temperament are sex-linked but this does not preclude an intellectual contribution which is not sex-linked. The women themselves must remember that child-bearing is an attractive and indispensable sex-linked role and that the status of women will be improved by the women themselves fostering this role, not by denying its existence. The woman should also recognise that she is likely to have many productive years after she has become unable to bear children any longer; she can be sure that after the experience she has had of training her children to be honest, compassionate, unselfish and loving, she will find that she has acquired talents which will stand to her advantage in whatever occupation she may turn to later in life. If she and her husband have determined the family size they deserve by the use of natural family planning, she will recognise that a natural method such as the Billings Method is a message of love which has helped the husband and wife to be truly healthy, recognising the respect and love they have for each other, the generous efforts they have made for the welfare of the whole family and that they are at ease with their conscience because their good works have been inspired by love of God and love for all mankind. They know that any future pregnancy will be the result of actions designed to give effect to decisions that they have made together. In this way they will advance towards old-age in robust health, physically, psychologically, emotionally and spiritually, knowing that in their own way they have contributed to the health and happiness of the society in which they have lived.