Closing the Gap in the Medical Community on Fertility Awareness: 3 Practical Things You Can Do

posted on November 14, 2018 by Cassie Moriarty Cassie Moriarty

At Natural Womanhood, we often receive emails from people who wonder why they never heard the science of Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM) before. They’re looking up a health condition, for instance, and they read how fertility awareness and natural family planning can serve them in their health goals.

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Well, recently we received an email from a reader whose doctor had never heard of FABMs:

“I wanted to extend my thanks to your site and the free brochure directed to the medical community. I recently gave a copy to my OBGYN after having a discussion on NFP (my husband and I have used STM [Sympto-Thermal Method] for 10 years). It was great to be able to give him something that wasn’t “churchy” and pointed to the facts of how effective NFP can be. He was genuinely surprised to know there was something available other than the rhythm method. My hope is he will continue to learn more in this area and share it with future patients. Your site provides him a great resource.”

For most women today, it’s quite likely that your doctor, who had 10+ years of schooling and training, only heard the term “fertility awareness-based method” in passing, and it was probably not in a very positive light. It simply is not part of medical school teaching. Partly because the science has been so rapidly changing. Partly because there is a stigma attached to using FABMs. Partly because of the conflating FABMs with less effective estimation methods, like the Rhythm Method. In short, it’s complicated. So how do we close this gap? Also complicated. It’s a multi-angled question with many different approaches. Who should we be informing? Medical school professors? Medical school students? Medical residents? Medical doctors? Maybe all of these people?

I attended Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS) annual meeting last week and learned tons about their approach to this. They have a comprehensive plan to educate all of the above on the efficacy, science, and research of FABMs. It’s a slow-moving process, like a cargo shipper traversing across the Atlantic. But small degrees do make big turns eventually. So here are 3 practical things you can do today to help this process.

1. Tell your medical school friends and your doctor about FABMs. Refer them to FACTS and Natural Womanhood to learn more. Not every medical professional needs to become a certified Fertility Awareness Educator. But it helps if they understand first of all, these methods are rooted in science, second, they can be effective in family planning and diagnosing hormonal imbalances, and third, there is growing research to support this.

We have this handy sheet you can download and print and pass along to them. Feel free to share resources of local Fertility Educators so that there isn’t a dead end at, “No I don’t know anything about that.” There is something so empowering in the statement, “I don’t know anything but I know who does.” The more medical students and professionals hear about FABMs, the more they will share about them.

2. Be open and honest about the joys—and the struggles—of using a FABM. Many FABM users are so zealous about Fertility Awareness that they forget to point out the challenges, such as charting in transitional seasons (postpartum and perimenopause), having a partner who might not be on board, and the steep learning curve that people sometimes experience when first beginning a FABM. If we are being transparent about these things, people in the medical community are much more likely to listen.

3. Donate to Natural Womanhood and FACTS, organizations that are already spread thin in trying to close this gap and promote Fertility Awareness. If finances are tight, a share on social media goes a long way too. Funding dictates research, research dictates educational curriculum, and curriculum dictates how future doctors will diagnose and treat. As we enter the holiday season, consider donating for our Giving Tuesday funding drive.

FABM use and awareness has grown considerably in the last decade, but we’d love to see more acceptance and knowledge of FABM use in our doctors’ offices. With your help, we see this as being possible in maybe another decade!

Posted by Cassie Moriarty Cassie Moriarty
Cassondra Moriarty is a fertility awareness educator, postpartum doula, and lactation mentor based in New York City, where she lives with her 2 year old daughter and husband. She manages a local wellness clinic that focuses on hormonal health, and she leads monthly La Leche League meetings to help nursing moms connect and get guidance on breastfeeding. After ditching hormonal birth control in 2012, she became an ardent fertility awareness enthusiast. Now, as a FEMM certified instructor, she teaches women and teens how to chart their cycles. When not running after her toddler, she enjoys attempting to make her thumb green and listening to live jazz music.