Natural family planning (also know as The Billing's Ovulation Method) is a method used to determine when a woman is fertile. During the menstrual cycle, numerous changes occur in a woman's body. By learning to identify your natural signals of fertility, you can use this method to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy and to safeguard your reproductive health.
This method enables a woman to safeguard her reproductive health while allowing effective management of fertility. This scientific method of fertility management is completely natural, and as a result, there are none of the harmful side effects commonly associated with many contraceptives.
During each cycle, one of a woman's ovaries releases an egg (referred to as ovulation). The egg moves toward the uterus via the fallopian tubes, where fertilization will take place. An unfertilized egg may live for up to 12 hours after it is released. If pregnancy is not achieved, the egg will be shed later during menstruation.
First Part of the Cycle (Follicular)
At the start of each menstrual cycle the pituitary gland releases the hormone FSH which makes the immature eggs grow. While the egg is developing, the area around the egg (follicle) produces estrogen (which causes the lining of the uterus to grow and prepare to receive a fertilized egg). Once the egg has reached a certain size and maturity, the estrogen in the blood "tells" the pituitary gland that the egg is ready to be released. The pituitary gland then sends out a high level of the hormone LH (also known as the LH surge). This hormone surge will cause the follicle to burst and the ovary to release the egg. Ovulation has occurred. The egg then travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. The remainder of the follicle left in the ovary will now start to produce progesterone. If you have sexual intercourse now, and sperm fertilizes the egg, the woman becomes pregnant. The fertilized egg attaches to the uterus and the follicle that remains will keep producing the progesterone needed to keep the egg implanted and growing.
Second Part of the Cycle (Luteal Phase)
If no egg is implanted after a few days, the follicle will stop producing progesterone and will be reabsorbed into the ovary. The levels of progesterone and estrogen fall and the lining of the uterus starts to break up. The unfertilized egg and the lining of the uterus are released through menstruation and the cycle begins again.
There are many methods used to determine your fertility:
Cervical Mucus (CM) - During the first part of your cycle, after menstruation has ended, your CM will be dry. The closer you get to ovulation, the "wetter" you will become. This wet CM is fertile (so, the wetter you are, the more fertile you are). This wet CM will help to move the sperm along to reach their goal. It also makes the vagina a "non-hostile" environment for the sperm. If you are wanting to get pregnant, this is the time you would want to have intercourse as much as possible. If you are using the natural family planning to avoid pregnancy, then this is the time to avoid intercourse. As soon as ovulation has occurred, your CM will quickly become dry again.
Cervix - this is a somewhat invasive procedure. It takes some time to understand the cervix. If you gently insert a finger into the vagina, you will feel a barrier. This barrier is the cervix (the opening to the uterus). At the beginning of your cycle, your cervix will be low, closed, and firm (like the tip of your nose). The closer to ovulation you get, the higher it will get. It will also start to open (to allow sperm access) and become soft (like your lips). After ovulation, the cervix will quickly lower, close, and become firm again.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) - Taking your BBT each day will tell you a lot about your cycle. During the first part of your cycle, your temperatures remain low. Once ovulation has occurred, your BBT will rise significantly (about a full degree F). Once ovulation has occurred, you know you are no longer fertile for the remainder of this cycle. Charting your BBT will only tell you when ovulation has ALREADY occurred. Your BBT will rise due to the increasing progesterone that is released by the follicle after ovulation. This rise in progesterone makes your body warm to help a fertilized egg stay nice and cozy while it grows and develops.
Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK) - These kits look similar to home pregnancy tests, but instead of measuring HCG in your system, they detect LH (the hormone that tells the ovary to release the egg). Once the OPK is positive, you know you will ovulate within 12-36 hours. If you want to be pregnant, this is an excellent time to have intercourse. Using OPK's are not recommended for use if you are trying to avoid pregnancy. This is because sperm can live in the vagina for up to 5 days (and the OPK's will detect ovulation about 12-36 hours before it happens).
Using a combination of these methods will determine fertility almost 100% of the time. You can find many online charting websites to record BBT, OPK results, CM, and more. One such site is Fertility Friend which is free to use.
How Effective is this Method?
The Natural Family Planning method can help you avoid pregnancy up to 98% of the time (2 pregnancies per 100) when it is practiced correctly. As many as 2 out of 3 women who don't have fertility problems become pregnant if they have sexual intercourse on their fertile days.
Billings Ovulation Method is used by millions of women around the world. It was developed by Dr.'s John and Evelyn Billings, validated by eminent international scientists and successfully trialled by the World Health Organization. By learning to identify your natural signals of fertility, you can use the Billings Ovulation Method to become pregnant or avoid pregnancy and to safeguard your reproductive health.
Common Reasons for Conception Difficulties
While there are many drugs on the market that work on hormone levels, they all have side effects. Some of these side effects are dangerous and can actually stop you from getting pregnant. For example Lupron can stop menstruation, and Clomid can cause 'Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome'. Clomid is a medication prescribed to women who are lacking in estrogen, thus making ovulation infrequent. Studies have indicated that women taking Clomid have a 20% chance of miscarriage and a 1% chance of stillbirth. There is also an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Similarly, Lupron can decrease sperm production and testicle size in men.
Thankfully there are natural alternatives to these drugs. There are herbs that have been used for hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of years to help men and women to conceive. Modern research has confirmed that these herbs work to help you conceive faster. Double-blind clinical studies put the herbs through the strictest and most vigorous testing.
Chaste Tree (Vitex)
Chaste Tree is used to balance the hormones and increase ovulation by increasing the release of progesterone, the hormone required for ovulation to take place. Also known as Chasteberry, Doctors at Stanford University School of Medicine found that it could increase progesterone levels by an average of 56% and increase the average number of days in the Luteal Phase with basal temperatures of over 37 degrees by 42%. Researchers at Basel University, Switzerland found that the herb decreased PMS symptoms by 42.5% over a period of three menstrual cycles, and double-blind placebo-controlled studies have proven that Chaste Tree contains compounds beneficial for regulating menstruation. 93% of women in one study noticed a decrease of PMS symptoms after talking Chaste Tree for just 3 months. An Austalian Reasearcher at the University of Queensland noted that Chaste Tree is sometimes used by Professional Practitioners to help women avoid miscarriage.
Green Tea (Matcha)
A 2006 double blind, placebo-controlled study carried out by Stanford University of Medicine found that mixing Green Tea extract with Chaste Tree and other vitamins and minerals normalized menstrual cycles in women with both long and short cycles, and resulted in 26% of the women becoming pregnant (compared to just 10% in the placebo group) making it a 260% increase in fertility. Another 2004 study which contained Green Tea and Chaste Tree extracts resulted in 33% of the women becoming pregnant (and none of the women in the placebo group managed to conceive). The Epigallocatechin Gallate in the Green Tea extract was reported in the Food Chemical Toxicology Journal to assist fetal development, as it protected animal fetus from toxicity.
The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Kwong Wah Hospital, Hong Kong reported use of Dong Quai to help infertile women to conceive. Dong Quai is used in Chinese Medicine for at least 2000 years to treat female reproductive problems including infertility, frequent miscarriage, ovarian function disorders, uterine cramping, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, painful periods, heavy periods, and amenoria. Dong Quai is rich in plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) which help to bring the body back into hormonal balance. It is also a good source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, choline, and iron.
Black Cohosh helps to balance estrogen levels and relieve menstrual complaints. A 2002 Biomedical Pharmacotherapy report showed that women taking a mixture of Black Cohosh and Dong Quai reduced menstrual symptoms by 54%. Unlike many estrogenic substances, Black Cohosh is safe for women with estrogen-related problems such as endometriosis and fibroids, as it does not stimulate endometrial tissue. Black Cohosh also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits and protects against aging and DNA damage. This is particularly helpful for women who are over 35 or who have been exposed to toxicity.
Muira Puama has been used by indigenous cultures in South America for aphrodisiac purposes and this has been backed up by 'The Institute of Sexology' in Paris, which found that 65% of women with a low sex drive who took a blend of Muira Puama reported an increased libido. In the USA, herbalists use Muira Puama to ease menstrual disorders such as PMS, menstrual cramps, and to increase fertility. Muira Puama supports the central nervous system and has antidepressant qualities, helping to preapre you mentally and emotionally for conception.
Siberian Ginseng has been used in Chinese Medicine to help the body to deal with both mentally and physically stressful situations, and to boost energy levels. It stimulates the endocrine system which contains all the glands responsible for fertility and hormone balance. Siberian Ginseng has anti-aging properties and is particularly useful for older women and it has been widely used as an aphrodisiac and as a general fertility tonic for both men and women. Siberian Ginseng also stimulates the flow of blood to the reproductive organs, and has been used to improve uterine muscles and boost the chances of successful implantation after conception.
Some people like to buy each herb separately and boil them up to three times a day. This will create a potent mixture of herbs that will help them get pregnant in the fastest time possible.
Steeping herbs in alcohol for a few days will create a tincture to be taken once per day.
You can purchase your herbs in capsule form from any natural health store, or even the supermarket. This is the most popular and most convenient way to ingest your fertility herbs.
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