The Billings method of contraception is a form of natural family planning that teaches a woman to interpret her signs of fertility. It doesn’t rely on any drugs or devices, and there are no side effects. A couple can either avoid or achieve a pregnancy once they understand how to identify fertile and infertile times during the woman’s menstrual cycle.
This is a cooperative method of family planning that puts the responsibility equally on both partners. Its success depends on the woman learning to understand her own individual pattern of fertility and the couple cooperating with the recommendations of the guidelines.
Safer sex considerations
Apart from complete abstinence, a monogamous (no other partners) relationship – where both partners are free from sexually transmissible infections (STIs) – is the next best protection against STIs. People who are not in a faithful, committed relationship may need to use other methods of contraception. The Billings method of family planning uses no barriers as protection against STIs.
Within every menstrual cycle, there is only a small window of opportunity of approximately six days for conception. That’s because ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary) happens on just one day in each cycle. The ovum (egg) lives for between 12 and 24 hours. Fertile mucus is produced by the cervix (neck of the womb) in the days leading up to ovulation. Sperm need this fertile mucus to survive. When it is present, sperm may live for three to five days.
The Billings method teaches the woman to identify ovulation, as well as the infertile phases in her cycle. Another physical clue to ovulation is a softened, swollen and slippery vulva.
Billings method and the mucus pattern
If you pay daily attention to the mucus produced throughout your menstrual cycle, you will notice a pattern including:
- In the days following menstruation, you may either feel dry or notice a consistent pattern of discharge (infertile phase).
- Then you observe a change from the infertile phase, either in sensation or the appearance of the mucus. You no longer feel dry (beginning of the fertile phase).
- In the days leading up to ovulation, you will notice a changing pattern of sensation and mucus. The vulva will begin to feel slippery (fertile phase).
- The last day of the slippery sensation is the peak of fertility. Ovulation occurs no more than 48 hours after the peak.
- After the peak, the vulva feels dry or sticky. The woman is infertile from the fourth day past her peak until the next menstruation.
- Menstruation occurs 11 to 16 days following the recognition of the peak if the cycle is fertile.
Anyone can use the Billings method
Once learned, the Billings method can be applied throughout a woman’s reproductive life. It can be used with regular and irregular cycles.
You can use it:
- to either avoid or achieve a pregnancy
- to identify the return to fertility after childbirth
- as a safe form of family planning during breastfeeding
- to chart your changing cycles leading up to menopause.
Professional instruction in the Billings method
Individual instruction is advisable. There are Billings method clinics located around Australia that offer detailed training and support.
Where to get help
- Billings Life Leaders In Fertility Education Tel. (03) 9802 2022 or 1800 335 860
- Your doctor
- Family Planning Victoria Tel. (03) 9257 0100
Things to remember
- The Billings method is a form of natural family planning that teaches a woman to interpret her signs of fertility.
- The success of this method depends on the couple having accurate information and then cooperating with the guidelines of the Billings method.
- The Billings method offers no protection against sexually transmissible infections.
- It is advisable to get individual instruction from a trained Billings method teacher.
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