Archive for the ‘Sympto-Thermal Method’ Category

Natural Family Planning: Mucus-only Systems

Sunday, January 27th, 2019

Recently I saw a blog that raised my concerns about mucus-only systems.  First, some background.  The late Fr. Paul Marx OSB conducted an NFP symposium every summer in the Seventies.  I attended these from 1971 through 1978 and heard Dr. John Billings give his talk each year.  He was such a convincing speaker that he would leave me wondering why we taught the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal system.  That question evaporated when I realized that there was at that conference another meeting to which I was not invited.  The Ovulation Method (OM) teachers would get together to discuss real-life situations.  They were finding that in real life things were not as simple as in the talks by Dr. Billings.  The temperature sign can be a  tremendous help and especially when the mucus signs are ambiguous or difficult to interpret.  By the way, Fr. Paul Marx was a supporter of NFP International.

At the talks by Dr. Billings, I heard him say two things that are troubling to this day.  In one talk he explained why he and his associates had dropped the temperature sign.  He said it was too easy.  It was so easy to use and interpret the temperatures that their Sympto-Thermal Method (STM) users were getting sloppy with their mucus observations.  Thus, his method systematically deprives his mucus-only users of the very-easy-to-use temperature sign.  Our answer to this problem is to point out that each sign is very important, especially in some situations.  If a couple decides to use only one sign, that’s their business, but we strive to give them the freedom to choose.  I strongly object to the deliberate withholding of this information, the deliberate reduction of couples’ freedom to make informed choices.

I also heard Dr. Billings explain that his system does not teach the teachings of the Church regarding birth control.  He used the word “crutch” in saying that his method stands on its own merits as a method of birth control and does not need the “crutch” of religion.  The Hilgers system likewise advertises that it is open to people of all faiths.  He certainly doesn’t encourage any immoral behaviors, but his system does not explicitly teach Catholic teaching on unnatural forms of birth control.  A Hilgers user-couple once told us that such a lack of specific teaching led them to practice masturbation during the fertile time until they somehow got our materials.  In our manual’s witness chapter, one gentleman says he and his spouse used our 1996 manual for self-instruction but skipped the sections on morality and resorted to masturbation during the fertile time. They finally read those sections and repented.  I am sure that these cases are not at all exceptional.  In the mid-Seventies, a secular fertility-awareness book openly recommended oral sodomy although it condemned anal sodomy on grounds of being unsanitary.  I think it is imperative to state the specific unnatural forms of birth control.

Perhaps when the Billings dropped the teaching of morality, there were no immediate bad consequences because the users were made very much aware of the fullness of Catholic teaching by their Catholic education and parish priests.  Certainly that cannot be counted on today.

I am more convinced than ever that it is imperative to teach the covenant theology of the marriage act simply because it is so easy to grasp.  It also makes it very easy to understand the dishonesty of “marriage acts” outside of marriage.

Lastly, the Billings method of birth control is not as effective as it is sometimes claimed to be.  Right after Humanae Vitae, the U.S. bishops founded the Human Life Foundation to assist couples to live the teaching of the encyclical.  The Foundation persuaded the NIH to conduct an impartial study to determine the relative effectiveness of the STM and the OM.  It was published in 1981, stating that there were approximately twice as many surprise pregnancies in the OM group.  Drs. Billings and Hilgers criticized it at length even though they had been consultants to the study.  For example, they found fault with the study’s inclusion of unmarried couples.  Does anyone have good reason to think that unmarried couples are less motivated to avoid pregnancy than married couples? The bottom line is that the US Bishops through their Human Life Foundation sponsored a study which gave the above results, but many or most dioceses have ignored those results. In other words, while the OM may be very good, the comparative study showed that it is second best.

Couples have a right to know all the common signs of fertility, ecological breastfeeding, and the covenant theology of the marriage act.

For readers interested in what we teach at NFP International, go to NFPandmore.org and purchase Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach.

John F. Kippley

 

The Role of Natural Family Planning International

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

This organization, NFPI, shares the founders’ 47 years of experience with teaching natural family planning and explaining morality in a way that ordinary people can understand. The content of our triple-strand approach to natural family planning is unique within the NFP movement.

Ecological breastfeeding provides a wonderful combination of health benefits for mother and baby, the emotional benefits of attachment parenting, and the natural spacing of babies. It is truly part of God’s plan for families. Only ecological breastfeeding with its Seven Standards provides a significant spacing of babies. Most couples can use ecological breastfeeding to space the births of their children and then use systematic NFP when they have a sufficiently serious reason for additional spacing or avoiding pregnancy.

The covenant theology of human sexuality provides an easy-to-grasp way to understand and internalize God’s plan for love, marriage and sexuality. The knowledge that the sex act ought to symbolize the commitment of marriage provides meaning and motivation to postpone the “marriage act” until marriage. The knowledge that within marriage it ought to be a renewal of the marriage covenant provides deep meaning to this expression of married love. It also provides a challenge to spouses to maintain an attitude of caring love and gratitude throughout every aspect of their life together.

The Kippley-Prem Method of systematic NFP provides couples with maximum freedom of choice and minimum abstinence.

Sheila Kippley

Natural Family Planning: A very effective rule ignored!

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Recently the writer of a chart review article in CCL’s Family Foundations wrote as follows concerning the start of Phase 3, post-ovulation infertility.  “Don’t ever consider the start of Phase III before P+3.  Using the ST [Sympto-Thermal] Rule, there will never be a start of Phase III before P+3, so don’t even bother looking there.”  (Andy Alderson,  FF, Sept-Oct 2016, p 36).  If Mr. Alderson had said that this applied only to the current CCL version of Dr. Josef Roetzer’s version of the ST system, he would have been correct.  However, that is not the only contemporary ST system, and another system finds that the start of Phase 3 can start on the evening of P+2.

For years, the CCL taught that Phase 3 starts on the evening of Peak Day plus 2 days of drying up crosschecked by at least 3 days of full thermal shift—three temps consecutively at least 4/10ths of one degree F above the lower level of temps.  That rule is based on the excellent results reported by Dr. G. K. Doering who reported a 99% level of effectiveness with a three-day temperature-only rule.  Note that Dr. Doering’s study was based only on the temperature sign without any crosscheck from the mucus sign.  When Dr. Konald Prem, longtime chief medical advisor to CCL, was asked whether CCL should teach that rule, he wanted to teach it only in a Sympto-Thermal version, so he insisted that the three days of full thermal shift had to be crosschecked by at least two days of drying up past Peak Day.  This was to guard against a “false” temperature rise caused by a cold or fever or something else not related to post-ovulation progesterone.   Our combined thinking was that if the couples in Dr. Doering’s study could achieve an effectiveness rate of 99.2% without any crosscheck from the mucus sign, our couples should be able to do just as well or even better with a crosscheck from the mucus sign.

It is also of interest that the pregnancies that counted against the Doering system’s effectiveness were all “imperfect use” pregnancies; that is, the couples did not follow the rules of the system being tested.  In fact, Dr. Doering wrote: “On the 3rd day of the hyper-thermal phase a conception has never been observed [and recorded in the literature], so that later the strict form of the temperature method was formulated in such a way that not until the 3rd day of the hyper-thermal phase could infertility be counted on.”  In our website text, we added [and recorded in the literature] because we are skeptical of 100% claims regarding natural phenomena.

To the best of our knowledge, NFP International is the only American-based organization to teach this highly effective approach.  The CCL organizations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia also continue to teach this approach.

When we first saw this change in 2007, we objected, but we were told that a couple can always wait one more day.  That’s true in one sense, but not in another.  That is, on the next day, one of the spouses may be out of town for a day or a week or even for months in the case of a military deployment.

The philosophy that we and Dr. Prem brought to the CCL was to give couples sufficient information so that they could make a well informed decision.  We pray that CCL will return to that philosophy of education.

Thanks for reading.  Please come back again next week.

John and Sheila, November 12, 2016