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Getting the BOM back in public health care system

The Billings Ovulation Method TT (BOMA-TT) conducted an education session for nursing staff at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PoSGH) on Monday, April 15.

Approximately 20 nurses (including one male nurse) from the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department attended ‘An Introduction to the Billings Ovulation Method’ held at the Maternity Education Centre.

Pauline Phelps, BOMA-TT Coordinator said, “This affects not just patients, but their own lives and they thought it was vital information for the human person. So important [that] they were willing at the end of the session to share information with their friends and family and, of course, the patients”.

Phelps told The Catholic News pre-pandemic BOMA-TT has had seminars for staff and the public at the Arima Health Facility and Mt Hope Women’s Hospital.

The nurses at PoSGH were informed about the value of the Billings Method to women and couples beyond reproductive health.

“It assists the couple not just to understand the reproductive system and how that works but even her general health. Some of the things shared with them is that reproductive cycles are linked to her general health—her hormonal health, heart health, brain health, her bone health, her libido.”

Phelps said health-care professionals dealing with women are targeted for information dissemination because “they can use the information from a Billings Ovulation Method chart to assist with a diagnosis of reproductive illnesses”.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes and brain abnormalities. Some thyroid diseases e.g. Subclinical Hypothyroidism can increase the incidence rate of PCOS and worsen its associated metabolic abnormalities and reproductive disorders.

“Many people are not aware of the sensitivity of the female reproductive cycle in detecting illness in her body…we call the Billings Ovulation Method the sixth vital sign of a woman’s body,” Phelps said.

She continued, “Why we are teaching the health-care professionals, specifically those who are involved in women’s health, is because we would like them to use the information in her chart to help diagnose and treat her.”

Phelps explained that BOMA teachers accompany couples and women in “one on one” or group meetings. If women charting their cycle detect something unusual, they are advised to see their doctors for further investigation. “We need to educate the physicians as to why we are sending patients back to them,” she said.

Phelps said hormonal treatment is the protocol typically used to resolve disruptions of the female reproductive cycle. However, the root-cause of reproductive health problems may not be addressed.

Using information from the Method, “then the doctors treating these women are actually able help her, not just for her cycle to look better…but primarily to deal with issues that may be even life-threatening for the woman”.

Phelps said one of her main roles as BOM Coordinator is building relationships and training health-care professionals. She has been trying to get the BOM “back into” the public health system as it was in the 1980s.

Phelps said the reproductive cycle is fundamental to being a woman. “Women need to know a reproductive cycle is not a curse, it is not bad, evil; it is a gift from God and certainly needs that understanding of what it is, to appreciate what it is”.

She has approached the Regional Health Authorities about having larger groups of staff for training “so staff are adequately educated about the existence of BOMA-TT and are able to offer an introduction at least, of the Billings Ovulation Method as an option for family planning in our nation”.

The Billings Ovulation Method was introduced to T&T in 1980 by general practitioner Dr Richard Clerk. He was asked by then Archbishop Anthony Pantin CSSp to attend an international symposium on the Billings Method of natural family planning in Australia.

Registered nurse Mariane Devaux was taught the Method and started teaching it from 1981 in parishes; training programmes took place to have Billings teachers in the parishes.

The Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, which preceded the Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, was a member of the National Family Planning Programme of Trinidad and Tobago. The Council taught the Method in health centres across the country in the 1980s.

Phelps said in 2020 the Billings Ovulation Method was included in the Health Ministry’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy as an option of Family Planning. —LPG

Photo by Bagoes Ilhamy on Unsplash