Archive for the ‘Sympto-Thermal Method’ Category

Natural Family Planning: The Cervix Sign, a Valuable Fertility Sign

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The last NFP conference I attended (2010) lasted several days.  My one disappointment, even surprise, was that none of the speakers mentioned the cervix sign, even when discussing the use of NFP during difficult times. Nor was the internal mucus exam mentioned.  See last week’s blog on the internal mucus sign.

As I mentioned last week, Dr. Edward Keefe at first taught the mucus sign at the vulva “but it was insufficient, inconstant, and lagged behind the true state of the ovaries according to my patients.  Most of them had been ‘rhythm-failures’ many times over and they demanded perfect results.”  So he began having his patients obtain the mucus with their fingers at the source, the cervix.  Soon his patients were describing changes in the cervix which they observed while doing the internal mucus exam.  That is, the women noticed that the cervix was higher and more open and softer when the mucus was most abundant and stretchy.

Dr. Keefe studied their observations for more than 10 years.  The women could not understand why the cervix sign was not given more publicity.  I feel the same way.  Why is the cervix sign ignored by many experts in the field of natural family planning?  The internal mucus exam, discussed in the previous blog, is likewise ignored by many in the NFP field.

John visited Dr. Edward Keefe twice at his home after the doctor retired, the last time just a few months before he died.  We are grateful for his work and interest in helping couples determine their fertile and infertile times.  In addition to his practical research on the cervix and the internal mucus exam, he developed the Ovulindex thermometer which was used by many couples practicing NFP.  It is no longer available, but I’m sure there are a few of us who still have one stored somewhere even though we no longer need it.  (Quotation from Coverline: “Recollections on Mucus Alone as a Fertility Sign” by Edward F. Keefe, M.D., Spring, 1975)

Both the internal mucus sign and the cervix sign are taught in the NFP International manual highlighted below.

Sheila Kippley
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach

Natural Family Planning: The Internal Mucus Sign, a Valuable Fertility Sign

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Dr. Edward F. Keefe, who practiced oblstetrics and gynecology in New York City, was interested in improving “systematic abstinence as a means of family limitation.”  He was excited when he read a paper by A. F. Clift in 1945 “on the rheology of human cervical mucus.”  Rheology is the study of fluids and something women judge everyday when working with syrups, jellies and batters, etc.  This paper made him wonder if women could judge the fertile time by the mucus as was demonstrated in farm animals.

He gave a medical report to a hospital staff in 1950.  The staff listened politely but many doubted there was a fertile time in women at all!  He soon became convinced of the changes in the mucus sign as an important sign of fertility.  Thus he incorporated this sign in his thermometer instructions.  At first he taught observation of the mucus at the vulva, but his patients found this observation “insufficient” and “inconstant.”  He felt the “best mucus sample was needed and the place to find it was in the cervical canal, unaffected by passage through the vagina.”  He began to teach his patients the internal mucus exam—–getting the mucus at its source, the cervix.  He tried aspiration of the mucus through a tube but found the best exam was achieved with the use of the fingers.

Dr. Keefe was disappointed when Dr. Billings promoted only the mucus sign at the vulva and dropped the teaching of the temperature sign.  In Dr. Keefe’s words regarding Dr. Billings’ new book, “I would rather that mucus signs supplement the charting of temperatures, not replace them, as the book demands.  Moreover, just because mucus on the vulva is not a dependable sign, its shortcomings must not cause us to undervalue the changes in the cervical mucus and the cervix itself.”  Cervical mucus was meant to mean that mucus obtained at the cervix. (Quotations from Coverline: “Recollections on Mucus Alone as a Fertility Sign” by Edward F. Keefe, M.D., Spring, 1975. His work was first published in 1962, Bulletin of Sloane Hospital for Women, 8, 129.)

Next blog:  How Dr. Keefe learned the cervix sign from his patients!

Sheila Kippley
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach

Effectiveness of Natural Family Planning—Both Systematic and Ecological Breastfeeding

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

How effective is systematic NFP for avoiding pregnancy?
We have no doubt that married couples who are properly instructed and motivated can practice the cross-checking Sympto-Thermal Method at the 99% level of effectiveness for avoiding pregnancy.  Various studies have shown that the “perfect use” of the method yields that result.  That means that the couples in the studies followed the rules.  A German study on the sympto-thermal method published in February 2007 showed an effectiveness of 99.6%.  On the other hand, fertile spouses who do not follow the rules and engage in the marriage act during the fertile time are going to become pregnant sooner or later.

It is important to realize that contemporary systems differ significantly from the Calendar Rhythm that was developed and taught in the 1930s.  Cars have advanced since that time, and so has systematic NFP.

Ecological Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing
Natural child spacing has been demonstrated in certain areas of the world where mothers at one time breastfed for an extended length of time.  Among the Canadian Eskimos, traditional breastfeeding kept the Eskimo family small—three or four children.   Conception occurred among the traditional breastfeeding Eskimo mothers at 20 to 30 months after childbirth.  The use of the bottle among breastfeeding Eskimo mothers, however, reduced the frequency and duration of breastfeeding, and these mothers were conceiving 2 to 4 months after childbirth.

Mother-baby togetherness is important for natural child spacing.  In a Rwanda study, breastfeeding mothers had different conception rates depending on their lifestyles, but the bottle-feeding mothers’ conception rates were the same, whether the mothers lived in the city or in the country.  Why the difference in conception rates among the breastfeeding mothers?  Seventy-five percent (75%) of the city breastfeeding mothers conceived between 6 and 15 months after childbirth, while 75% of the rural breastfeeding mothers conceived between 24 and 29 months after childbirth.  According to the researchers, the reason the country mothers conceived much later was due to the amount of physical contact these mothers had with their babies.  The country mothers remained with their babies while the city mothers were leaving their babies with others.

The frequency of breastfeeding, short intervals between feedings,  and night feedings, — all these factors have been proven to be extremely important for natural child spacing. Because the research is so substantial, we believe that those involved with natural family planning, the family, the health of our nation, and the Church should teach the important health and baby-spacing benefits of ecological breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding for all these reasons should especially be promoted among the poor. As Dr. Ruth Lawrence says:
Breastfeeding is the most precious gift a mother can give her infant.
If there is illness or infection, it may be a life-saving gift.
If there is poverty, it may be the only gift.

Why do many nursing mothers have an early return of fertility?
The primary reason is that they do not follow the frequent nursing pattern [or the Seven Standards] of ecological breastfeeding.  Many breastfeeding mothers offer early supplements and use pacifiers or bottles or baby sitters and strict feeding and/or sleep schedules; these practices have long been associated with an early return of fertility.   (page  110 of the NFPI manual)

For a better understanding of what shortens breastfeeding and natural infertility, review pages 113 and 114 of the NFPI manual and Chapter Six.  To achieve pregnancy, review pages 68-70 in Chapter 4 of the NFPI manual.  For natural child spacing, read The Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding: The Frequency Factor.

John and Sheila Kippley
Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach