Inspiring legacy of John and Evelyn Billings; a married couple, both doctors, set out to study the signs of fertility. What they discovered changed the world.
A Melbourne couple who pioneered one of the world’s most successful natural fertility methods are being celebrated as future saints by those in the medical profession who worked with them as well as families who benefited from their innovative ovulation method, now taught in over 40 countries around the world.
Dr John and Dr Evelyn Billings are perhaps best known overseas for their work in pioneering the Billings Ovulation Method, which has helped countless women around the world determine the most fertile and infertile periods of their menstrual cycle by using mucus patterns from the cervix as the most reliable indicator of fertility.
While Dr John died in 2007 and Dr Evelyn died in 2013,interest in their personal story is growing with a dedicated website set-up to promote their cause for beatification, based on their inspirational personal attributes and deep Catholic faith.
The remarkable journey began in the 1950s, when the then Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix was looking to start a Catholic welfare agency to help Catholic couples whose marriages were in trouble because they didn’t have a reliable, natural way for couples to space out their children if they wished to do so.
“Fr catarinch asked John because he was a happily married man with a family who could relate to the need for such a natural method, especially to help mothers who weren’t well enough either emotionally or physically …”
Dr John Billings was then working as a neurologist at St Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne when he was approached by his Parish Priest, Fr Maurice Catarinich to help develop a more reliable form of natural fertility than the Rhythm Method which had been based on a fixed assumption on the date of menstruation in a woman’s cycle, but which failed to take account of individual differences.
“Fr Catarinich asked John because he was a happily married man with a family who could relate to the need for such a natural method, especially to help mothers who weren’t well enough either emotionally or physically for an unlimited number of pregnancies and he was still doing the work 60 years later”, explained CEO of BillingsLIFE Australia, Lynne Anderson.
Dr John Billings was a natural team player and his wife Lyn, who was a paediatrician, became increasingly more interested in her husband’s work when she proof-read his first book on natural fertility and wanted to then get involved as an ambassador for the work herself.
By 1966, Dr Evelyn Billings had made a landmark discovery, recognising patterns in mucus discharge from the cervix before ovulation which greatly assisted couples to pinpoint the most fertile day of a woman’s menstrual cycle.
The Billings Ovulation Method was gaining growing levels of international interest and by 1971, it had been recognised by the World Health Organisation and it is to this day the only natural fertility method accepted by the Chinese government.
John and Evelyn Billings founded the World Organisation of the Ovulation Method Billings (WOOMB) which has allowed the teaching of the method across 45 accredited centres from struggling African nations such as Tanzania and Nigeria through to wealthier European countries such as France and Italy.
“The beauty of the method is that it is reliable and inexpensive and so it can be adapted to many different contexts. It’s therefore a much better alternative to IVF”, explained CEO of BillingsLIFE Australia, Lynne Anderson.
“We did a retrospective study several years ago and we looked at all the couples who had come to us, Australia-wide for help with achieving pregnancy and we had a 70 percent success rate with achieving pregnancy. This was based on data from couples who had tried for 12 months to conceive”, she added.
Ms Anderson said she is not surprised by calls for the potential beatification of John and Evelyn Billings, saying they were a remarkably selfless couple who were also very dedicated to the practise of their Catholic faith.
“They were also a great example of married life, devoted to honouring each others achievements and sharing the Billings Method with communities at conferences around the world, often travelling away for six-eight weeks at a time, 2-3 times each year at different conferences around the world.”
“They were very devout, daily Mass attendees and whenever they travelled overseas for conferences, they tended to stay in religious communities”, she said.
“When John first started this work in 1953, Lyn was working at the Royal Children’s Hospital and the couple agreed to adopt what was their ninth child, when they saw a poor baby who had been left orphaned and had profound injuries including an amputated hand”.
“They were known for their unfailing generosity of spirit. They were also a great example of married life, devoted to honouring each others achievements and sharing the Billings Method with communities at conferences around the world, often travelling away for six-eight weeks at a time, 2-3 times each year at different conferences around the world”, Ms Anderson added.
“They would not accept any honour unless it was given to both of them and they would rarely appear on stage without the other: They were a real team and a perfect example of what a faith-filled marriage can be”.
You can find more information about the Billings Ovulation Method here: https://billings.life/en/