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Studies in Family Planning. 1984 Nov-Dec; 15(6/1):253-66.This paper critically analyzes claims for the effectiveness of the Billings method of natural family planning and raises questions about the wisdom of actively promoting this method. The Billings method, developed in Australia, is based on client interpretation of changing patterns of cervical mucus secretion. Evaluation of the method's use-effectiveness has been hindered by its supporters' insistence on distinguishing between method and user failures and by the unreliability of data on sexual activities. However, the findings in 5 large studies aimed at investigating the biological basis of the Billings method provide little support for the claims that most fertile women always experience mucus symptoms, that these symptoms precede ovulation by at least 5 days, and that a peak symptom coincides with the day of ovulation. Although many women do experience a changing pattern of mucus symptoms, these changes do not mark the fertile period with sufficient reliability to form the basis for a fully effective method of fertility control. In addition, the results of 5 major field trials indicate that the Billings method has a biological failure rate even higher than the symptothermal method. Pearl pregnancy rates ranged from 22.2-37.2/100 woman-years, and high discontinuation rates in both developed and developing countries were found. Demand for the method was low even in developing countries where calendar rhythm and withdrawal are relatively popular methods of fertility control, suggesting that women of low socioeconomic status may prefer a method that does not require demanding interaction with service providers and acknowledgment of sexual activity. The Billings method is labor-intensive, requiring repeated client contact over an extended time period and high administrative costs, even when teachers are volunteers. It is concluded that although natural family planning methods may make a useful contribution where more effective methods are unavailable or unacceptable, many of the claims made for the Billings method are unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.
Washington, D.C., Heritage Foundation, 1984 Aug 27. 16 p. (Backgrounder No. 376)The United Nations' 2nd World Population Conference (Mexico City, 1984) called for greatly expanding funding for family planning assistance worldwide. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the conference's chief sponsor, will no doubt receive the largest portion of any assistance increase. UNFPA plays a critical role in population-related programs worldwide. The central debate on population policy should be over the extent and adequacy of the natural resources base and how countries can humanely and voluntarily change family size preferences. In countries like Singapore and South Korea, success has been achieved by combining social and economic incentives to discourage large families. Although couples in developing countries report wanting contraceptive service programs, they also want families of 4 to 6 children. So far UNFPA has been ineffective in changing the population situation. This overview of its activities reveals that UNFPA loses ultimate reponsibility for implementation of many of its own programs. UNFPA does not advocate a reduction in population growth within a single country, but rather helps couples have the number of children they desire. UNFPA's specific population and family programs are divided into functional areas: basic data collection, population change study, formulation and implementation of population policies, support for family planning/maternal child health programs and educational and communication programs. UNFPA stresses the importance of using contraceptives but not of achieving the small family norm. UNFPA's projects in some of the largest less developed nations are described, illustrating how the UN agency spends its assistance funds. From 1971 to 1982, the UNFPA spent almost US $230 million in the 10 largest less developed countries without any significant change in population growth. UNFPA program administrators are far from resolving the serious population problems facing developing countries and generally oblivious to new directions in which population policies should move. No progress will be made until UNFPA recognizes the need to approach the problem from a different perspective, working to change attitudes toward small families.