By Dr. Anthony Policastro

When I was a resident in Boston a woman had her thirteenth child. The child had Down’s Syndrome. I was the one who had to tell her the news about her child’s condition. During the discussion she said that she and her husband decided that they would have no more children.

Therefore, they decided on a unique method of birth control. They would only have relations once a month. They figured they would do that halfway between her two periods to make pregnancy less likely.

One may wonder how someone who had that many children still had not learned about basic human physiology. However, it is not a huge surprise.

A questionnaire was once given to women in a postpartum OB clinic. The individuals who completed it had all recently had babies. One out of 8 of those women had the same unusual belief about female physiology.

It was her opinion that between menstrual periods the uterus was closed. It filled with blood and then opened to empty the blood out once every 28 days.

Since that was the only time of the month that it was open, that also was the only time when pregnancy could occur.

One may wonder where they could get such a concept. Perhaps they were taught incorrectly. That kind of education should begin at home. Often it does not.

I once worked with a Catholic school to do a four-lesson sex education class for its 7th and 8th graders. Before the class I gave them a pretest to get a feel for their level of understanding.

There were 47 children in the two classes. One of the questions asked was at what time of the month a woman was most likely to get pregnant.

There were four answers: just before her period, during her period, just after her period or halfway between the two periods.

One would figure that even if they did not know the answer, about one out of four would guess right since there were only four answers.

However, out of the 47 students, only one selected the correct answer of halfway between. Interestingly, that was one of the boys.

This is the type of education that should begin at home. My role was supposed to reinforce that education.

Parents should have already had these kids of discussions.

They clearly did not. The postpartum clinic studies showed that a significant number of women who had babies were poorly informed.

Even woman who had 13 children still did not know basic human physiology. There is clearly a need for parents to be a little more thorough in these kinds of conversations.