What is the Billings Method?

What You Need to Know About the Billings Method

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The Billings method is a form of natural birth control -- also referred to as the Billings ovulation method, ovulation method or cervical mucus method -- that seeks to teach women how to recognize their own fertility patterns, so they can choose when to avoid sexual contact (to prevent pregnancy) or initiate sexual contact (in the attempt to conceive).

How Does the Billings Method Work?

The Billings ovulation method is based on your interpretation of your cervical mucus.

Generally speaking, over the course of each menstrual cycle, cervical mucus changes in predictable ways. Specifically, cervical mucus is affected by estrogen six days before ovulation and becomes clear and elastic. So, ovulation is likely to occur the last day that mucus shows these properties. After ovulation, cervical mucus is affected by the production of progesterone and becomes thick, sticky and opaque.

What Does the Billings Method Teach You?

The Billings method teaches you how to understand your individual fertility pattern by analyzing your cervical mucus each month. This is easily done by taking a cervical mucus sample (by hand) every day and recording its quantity, appearance and feel (as well as noting any other fertility/physical signs) on a daily chart. The Billings ovulation method allows for you to identify the fertile phase of your menstrual cycle by the presence of cervical mucus, and the sensation it produces at the vulva in the days leading up to ovulation.

Four Billings Method Rules

As per the Billings method, there are for rules to follow for natural contraception: three early day rules and the peak rule:

  • The early day rules have to do with the days leading up to ovulation. During this time, the cervical mucus tells you that you have begun your fertile phase. The peak rule applies once the peak day (ovulation) has been identified.
  • The peak day is often characterized by being the last day of "lubricative sensation" and occurs extremely close to the time of ovulation. According to the Billings ovulation method, you may be fertile for another three days, and menstruation should occur 11 to 16 days later.

The Billings ovulation method doesn’t require any form of rhythm counting, temperature taking, hormonal drugs or devices and allows couples to share in the responsibility of natural family planning. This natural birth control method can also be used from puberty to menopause while breastfeeding, and in women who don’t have regular menstrual cycles.

When Can't the Billings Method be Used?

It is important to note that the Billings method cannot be used with hormonal contraception (like the pill) because these birth control methods affect the hormones that regulate natural fertility symptoms, like cervical method. When you begin the Billings method, it is best to abstain from sexual intercourse as you may confuse sperm and/or seminal fluid with cervical mucus.

It is essential that you have accurate knowledge of this natural birth method before relying on it to prevent pregnancy. The success of the Billings method is greatly dependent upon proper teaching, correct understanding, accurate cervical mucus observation and daily charting, mutual motivation and cooperation between the couple. Couples can achieve a greater understanding and confidence by using an accredited Billings ovulation method teacher.

How Effective is the Billings Method?

The Billings ovulation method is 78% to 97% effective. This means that with perfect use, three out of every 100 women who use the Billings method will become pregnant in one year. With typical use, 22 out of every 100 women who use the Billings method will become pregnant in one year.


Evelyn Billings and Ann Westmore (2000). Billings Method: Controlling Fertility Without Drugs Or Devices. United Kingdom: Gracewing Publishing.

UpToDate. "Pregnancy rate (percent) during first year of use." Accessed: June 21, 2010 via private subscription.

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