6. Natural Family Planning: Preparation for Marriage and What Couples Have A Right to Know

5.  All the common signs of fertility and infertility.  God made the fertility of women much more interesting than that of men.  Unless they suffer from some sort of abnormality or disease, men are constantly fertile from pubescence onward.  Women, however, have a cycle of fertility and infertility.  God made woman in such a way that she can observe certain signs that tell her when she is fertile or infertile.  Observing one or more of these signs is the essence of modern fertility awareness.

The mucus sign.  Under the influence of rising estrogen levels, the cervix starts to secrete cervical mucus several days before ovulation.  The secretion generally dries up and disappears several days after ovulation as estrogen decreases and progesterone increases.

The cervix sign.  A less obvious sign is the cervix itself.  Under the influence of those same hormones, before ovulation the cervix rises slightly, the mouth of the cervix opens and becomes softer, and then these signs reverse themselves after ovulation.

The temperature sign.  Another valuable sign is a woman’s resting body temperature that rises slightly after ovulation, reflecting the higher levels of progesterone secreted after ovulation.   It stays higher for some days and then falls as progesterone falls at the time of menstruation.

Different systems.  There are in North America at least three different systems based on just the cervical mucus sign, of which the Billings Ovulation Method is one.  In a second type of system, the temperature sign cross-checks the mucus sign, and these systems are called versions of the Sympto-Thermal Method.  A third system, the Marquette Method, uses urine and a dipstick to monitor hormonal levels as a crosscheck on the cervical mucus sign.

Equally effective?  In the mid-1970s there was considerable debate about the relative effectiveness of the Billings mucus-only system and the Sympto-Thermal system.  The Human Life Foundation, established by the U. S. Bishops in 1968, persuaded the National Institutes of Health to conduct an independent comparative study.  The results showed that the Sympto-Thermal Method had significantly higher effectiveness rates than the Billings Ovulation Method, but the debate continued.

Regardless of relative effectiveness, the temperature sign is a simple, very inexpensive, and highly accurate way of determining important information about fertility and infertility.  It can provide an extremely valuable certainty about pregnancy and gestational age.

Couples have a God-given right to make an informed choice.  They have a right to know these natural signs of fertility and their relative user-effectiveness in comparative studies.

John F. Kippley
To be continued next week —

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