A medical update on Fertility Awareness Methods

Natural Womanhood Medical Update about FABMs
Doctors often push contracpeitves on Women. Pic courtesy of Alex Polmos. http://bit.ly/1e50aS0

Has a medical professional ever pressured you to get on birth control? Have you ever experienced pushback or even derision when you told your doctor about your interest in using fertility awareness instead of getting on the pill? You’re not alone. I looked up a few testimonies online and here’s a little of what I found:

“I went to the doctor yesterday and he started talking almost immediately about putting me on birth control, specifically one of those IUD things. I kept saying I wasn’t interested and he kept saying it is for my convenience and in my best interest.” (krochetnkat)

“It was my freshman year of college and my doctor wouldn’t stop pushing me to get on the pill.” (Organic Olivia)

“My doctor told me I was being ‘destructive’ because I am opposed to birth control.” (Christina Martin)

“My OB and the health department could not provide me with any information about natural family planning, and in fact I was openly mocked by the doctors and nurses.” (Samantha Wiessing)

Medical schools spend very little time talking about fertility awareness methods (FAM). A med student friend of mine tried to make a presentation about FAMs she had prepared for one of her classes at the University of Texas and she was shut down and humiliated by her professor.

A study[i] showed that only 6% of medical professionals were aware of the true effectiveness rates of FAMs. It means that about 90% of the time, when you talk to your doctor about using FAM as an alternative to the pill, you’re going to get some push back.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC), which is supposed to be an authority on medical topics, is partly responsible for this ignorance. On their website, they rate FAM among the least effective forms of birth control. The reason for this conclusion is that they put all the natural methods in one bag and apply the effectiveness rate of the least reliable as the measure for all of them. Because they include the obsolete, rudimentary rhythm method, the rate is indeed 24% chance of pregnancy, or a 76% effectiveness rate. It’s as if we put all the artificial methods together and said that their effectiveness rate was 82% based on the effectiveness rate of the condoms. I don’t think Bayer and Merck would appreciate that strategy.

The figures given by the CDC are not the truth; many other methods have been developed and tested since the rhythm method (which was developed in the 1920s) and they work very effectively in planning a family. They also work both ways, to achieve or to avoid pregnancy, unlike the pill, which is a pretty nice benefit.

We decided to do something about the misinformation. In partnership with FACTS, Natural Womanhood has developed a downloadable flyer called a Medical Update on Fertility Awareness Based Methods that we hope you will send to doctors in your community. FACTS (Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Systems) is a Washington, DC-based organization led by physicians and whose mission is to educate healthcare professionals and medical students about evidence-based natural methods.

Natural Womanhood Medical Update

Written by doctors, it speaks their language and is a succinct introduction to the demonstrated effectiveness of the main methods, based on scientific evidence. We would like you to share it with the world by sharing this link: www.naturalwomanhood.org/share. Our goal is to equip you and others to have a conversation with your doctor that doesn’t go the way it usually does.

When you read the results in the flyer, you may notice that some methods are not in the evidence-based list. Or that some of the data is lower than the effectiveness rates published by certain methods. It doesn’t mean that these methods don’t have studies or that their studies are not valid. The system FACTS used to validate studies is very rigorous, and eliminated a lot of them. The reality is that methods like Billings or Family of the Americas have been used for many years and work extremely well. However, FACTS employed a study validation system that was very strict to make sure the medical system would recognize the results.

Why should you share this? Below is a list of articles[ii] that have been published in the past three months about fertility apps that are actually very effective. Every single one of these articles, while quoting the anecdotal effectiveness and happiness of the apps’ users, included an interview from some medical authority quoting the ineffectiveness of FAMs based on the CDC data. We need to stop this misinformation.  The Medical Update on FAM is our tool to do so.

We hope that you will share it with all your friends in the FAM and NFP community. Only by our actively speaking up will we end the misrepresentation of fertility awareness methods.

When this article refers to fertility awareness methods (FAM), or natural family planning (NFP), we are referring to Fertility Awareness-Based Methods, evidence-based methods of cycle charting which can be used as effective forms of natural birth control when learned by a certified instructor.


[i] Natural Family Planning: Physicians’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practice, Joyce Choi, MD, CCFP, Sherry Chan, MD, CCFP, Ellen Wiebe, MD, FCFP, Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC. See also this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3052964/

[ii] Articles that quote incorrect data about the effectiveness of FAMs:

3 Apps to Make Natural Family Planning Easier, Shape, Marie Gartee

Return of the Rhythm Method, The Atlantic, by Olga Khazan

Why Women Are Giving Up The Pill, Yahoo Health, by Cassie Shortsleeve

Natural Family Planning Methods Can Work, But They Take a Big Commitment, RH Reality Check, by Martha Kempner

The App That Could Be A 99 Percent Effective Form Of Birth Control, Huffington Post Women, Catherine Pearson


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