How to Talk Confidently About Fertility Awareness Methods With A Doubtful OBGYN, Partner, or Literally Anyone
Fertility Awareness-Based Methods (FABM) and modern, evidence-based methods of natural family planning (NFP) bring a wealth of helpful information and powerful insights into your health. FABMs can help you address and treat symptoms related to PMS and PCOS without using synthetic hormones, monitor your fertility, and clue you into any hormonal balances you might be experiencing. In theory, it would make sense if everyone welcomed this information with open arms, including your healthcare provider and your significant other.
In practice, however, not everyone may share your enthusiasm or have the same level of knowledge as you about the benefits of natural family planning. Your healthcare provider might not have heard of Fertility Awareness-Based Methods or may be misinformed about them and their effectiveness. Or, perhaps your significant other is feeling overwhelmed by considering a new and unfamiliar approach to managing your fertility. When that happens, it can be disheartening. You might even feel like no one hears or understands how important this is to you.
Whether you are excited, nervous, hopeful, or overwhelmed by bringing up your needs or questions related to FABMs, hormones, your cycle, fertility, and your overall health, it’s important to acknowledge that you might be met with some resistance or questions when broaching the topic. It can be easy to feel discouraged or discounted, but try not to let resistance hold you back from taking charge of your health. As a psychotherapist, I know a few strategies that can help you more easily communicate your questions and needs effectively so that you feel heard whether you are speaking with your healthcare provider, your significant other, or really anyone.
Being assertive can conjure negative connotations for many people, but it’s important to remember that being assertive is very different from being mean, pushy, or authoritarian. Instead, being assertive is clearly communicating your thoughts, needs, and feelings. This doesn’t mean that you have to bulldoze over the person you are talking to. Instead, it means listening respectfully to your provider or partner while asking for the same respect from them when you are voicing your concerns, questions, and needs.
An example of being assertive could be saying something like, “I understand that synthetic hormones are typically recommended but it is important to me that we consider natural methods as well. Can I put you in touch with my NaPro instructor so that she can provide you with relevant information and research?”
Remember Your ‘Why’
If you expect to be met with resistance when bringing up FABMs or other related topics, it’s often helpful to take some time before your conversation to remind yourself of the reasons that using a FABMs and a natural approach is so important to you. Going back to the basics and remembering why having this conversation means so much to you helps to empower you and can renew your conviction when you start to feel nervous about bringing up your concerns and needs. Whether your “why” is that FABMs are empowering, have helped you relieve painful symptoms, given you insight into your fertility, or some other reason, identifying your primary reasoning beforehand can be incredibly motivating.
If you are feeling nervous or apprehensive about having a certain conversation, it’s often helpful to set aside some time to write down the points you want to cover and exactly what you want to say. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, your mind might go blank and your speech might fly right out the window. Taking the time to write down your questions and the topics you want to cover, can help ground you in the moment. Don’t be afraid to print any supporting literature/research if you think it might be helpful. With your spouse or friends, you can share the Know Your Body brochure (PDF) to explain the basic concept and how it works for you; with your doctor, you can use this medical fact sheet on FABMs (PDF). I often encourage my psychotherapy clients to use this strategy when they have a doctor or psychiatrist appointment that they are nervous about.
Communicate the Importance
Sometimes, when someone is presented with new information, they can be dismissive instead of curious. This could be the case with a healthcare provider who is not familiar with the different research-backed FABM options and with your significant other who may have limited knowledge of fertility and your cycle.
If this happens, it can be helpful to communicate to your provider or significant other why using a FABM is so important to you. It takes the focus off of who is “right” and who is “wrong” and instead shifts the conversation toward what matters to you and may foster an openness on the part of the person you are talking to. For example, you might say something like, “My symptoms are sometimes so painful, it’s hard for me to leave the house. I really want to work with you to get to the root of these symptoms instead of using synthetic hormones or the Pill to hide the symptoms. Getting to the bottom of this is incredibly important to me because I am hoping it will help me live a pain-free life.”