In July 2011, the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology released a pamphlet stating several doctors’ endorsement of Intrauterine Devices (IUD) as “as safe and effective birth control.” IUDs were once unpopular in the United States, nevertheless, use has persevered. Physicians are starting to recommend IUDs more frequently, especially non-hormonal, copper IUDs. However, as Delicia Yard of ClinicalAdvisor.com points out, “The devices may raise the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and subsequent infertility.” Prescribing information for a popular IUD lists these common side effects: headache, abdominal/pelvic pain, irregular bleeding, depression, migraine, nausea, acne, back pain, genital tract infection, ovarian cysts, dysmenorrheal, breast pain, and unintentional expulsion of the device. Despite this, it has been said that IUDs are “the most cost-effective form” of birth control available.
How does this newly popularized birth control stand up to the Billings Ovulation Method (BOM)? In September of 2000, Professor S. Z Qian (Professor of Pharmacology at the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Editor-in-Chief of the Asian Journal of Andrology) presented a paper at a Congress organized by the Centre for Study and Research in the Natural Regulation of Fertility. In this paper he detailed a study preformed in 1996-1997 where he worked with the Chinese Billings Ovulation Method Collaboration Program in Nanjing, Anhui, Kunmin and Shanghai.
The study was quite extensive, including 662 women using TCu220c (a copper IUD) and 992 women using BOM. They were all between the ages of 24 and 35. All women were healthy and of proven fertility (having at least one live birth). The participants were followed for one year, totaling 16,169 cycles monitored. It is also interesting to note that these women varied greatly in education and social status, ranging from 0-12+ years of education and separated into groups labeled Peasant, Laborer and Intellectual.
5 women in the BOM group became pregnant (all use-related, meaning they did not follow the rules correctly) which equals a use-failure rate of 0.5%. This is compared to the IUD group where 12 pregnancies occurred equaling a failure rate of 2%. Discontinuation of use for medical reasons was also significantly lower in the BOM group. In the IUD group there were 15 expulsions, and 38 removals due to severe pain and bleeding, and 12 discontinued because of pregnancy while in the BOM group only the 5 use-related pregnancies were “discontinued.”
In one field trial it was noted that failure cases occurred in those who had higher levels of education. The study concluded, “The BOM is simple and easy to comprehend; almost all the women, including the illiterate, can successfully learn the method and identify their own mucus symptoms.” Yet, the “intellectuals and professionals” thought the method to be so simple that they did not pay close attention during instruction and did not follow the rules properly. “The method seems to be too ‘simple’ to them and they could not get hold of it without strict supervision.” The study concluded that, “The use-effectiveness of the BOM is much higher than that of TCu220c, one of the most popular IUDs used in China.”
In a nutshell, “Due to its high efficacy, low expenditure and extreme safety [the Billings Ovulation Method is] incomparable to any other contraceptive method.”