November 18, 2020
By Julie R. Sawyer, MS
Editor’s Note: This is an interview with a physician who uses fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) to enhance her health while also offering FABMs to women and couples in her medical practice. Julie Sawyer conducted this interview as a fourth-year medical student while on the FACTS fertility awareness elective, which now consists of two parts. The original elective focuses on modern, evidence-based fertility awareness-based methods of family planning. It discusses the various FABMs in detail, including the Billings Ovulation Method, the Creighton Model, the Marquette Model, FEMM, the Lactational Amenorrhea Method, and more. The new elective focuses on the medical applications of FABMs to diagnose and treat common medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, infertility, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and more. Follow the link to learn more about the unique FACTS electives!
In Pursuit of Holistic Care
While working abroad in Africa, Dr. S decided to pursue a career in medicine and applied to medical school in the United States. Following graduation, she completed residency in family medicine with a focus on women’s health. She is now a family physician and practices medicine in the South. Ultimately, she intends to settle with her family in Africa and serve the communities she loves there.
Dr. S was introduced to FABMs while in medical school. Her motivation to incorporate these methods into her personal life and her medical practice grew from a desire to avoid artificial hormones and pursue a more holistic means of achieving her fertility goals and those of her patients. Recognizing their practical applications in women’s health as well as their effectiveness for family planning, she sought training to become an FABM instructor. She is now a certified FEMM medical consultant and is also working toward becoming a Billings Ovulation Method instructor.
The Fertility Education & Management Program (FEMM)
The FEMM medical management program places reproductive endocrinology at the center of women’s health. This science and evidence-based method teaches women about their bodies and how to identify signs of health or potential problems based on observable changes throughout their natural cycle. The method primarily uses cervical mucus and serum hormone levels to monitor health. FEMM can be used to achieve or avoid pregnancy, identify health problems, and address underlying hormonal issues. Rather than suppressing the cycle with artificial hormones, FEMM seeks to identify and correct hormonal imbalances to restore a woman’s natural cycle.
FABMs in Medical Practice
Dr. S is flexible, attentive, and ready to continue to adapt her practice to meet the needs of her patients and provide individualized support. Mentorship with other FABM professionals has been an important component of her education that has helped her incorporate FABMs effectively in practice. These mentors offer the opportunity to discuss difficult cases and engage in meaningful conversation regarding practical applications of FABMs in a clinical setting. Learning and growing alongside other professionals in the field of fertility awareness expands our resources as well as our knowledge. It also reminds us we are not alone as we continue to share the science and benefits of FABMs with patients and colleagues alike.
Along the way, Dr. S has faced some obstacles incorporating FABMs into her medical practice. Most patients are unfamiliar with modern FABMs and often require extensive counseling to even consider these methods to achieve their health goals. Although these are useful fertility methods, incorporating FABMs into clinical practice is not always practical. She finds she must limit the time spent on FABM education to ensure patients have been counseled about all available options. Additionally, she has faced challenges keeping patients motivated to use the method consistently.
Gaps in Medical Education and the FACTS Elective
While Dr. S is much further along in her FABM journey, her story parallels my own as I, too, desire a more holistic method to manage my reproductive health and that of my patients. Prior to taking the FACTS elective, my experience with FABMS was quite limited. During medical school, fertility management consisted of a one-hour lecture with accompanying slides. Natural family planning was mentioned at the bottom of the list as a method with a high failure rate. During clinical rotations, exposure to different reproductive health and fertility methods was provider-dependent and based on their comfort levels with different methods.
I’ve witnessed the furrow on the patient’s brow as we began to discuss different options and the pros and cons of each method. In service of my patients’ right to informed consent, I must counsel them on all the possible outcomes when initiating a new medication or undergoing a procedure. “Let me think about it” is a common and valid response to the overwhelming amount of information.
In the past, my inability to lead patients to an informed decision felt like a disservice to those women who desired a more holistic approach or had contraindications to hormonal methods. Since taking the FACTS elective, I feel like I’ve been given an opportunity to correct that education deficit. I intend to continue my FABM education and incorporate these techniques into my practice.
Author Bio: Julie R. Sawyer, MS is a fourth-year medical student living in Alabama. She hopes to match into an OB/Gyn residency and continue her education in women’s health with particular interest in global medicine and holistic methods to promote health and wellness.
Happy 10th Anniversary to FACTS!
Our 10 Year Anniversary Celebration continues this week as we reflect on the past ten years’ accomplishments and look ahead to what the next 10 years can bring.
Stay tuned to us on social media to hear stories from patients and the medical community about the decade-long impact of FACTS and our research, education, and engagement in the field of Fertility Awareness. Share these stories with your colleagues and friends and send us your feedback on how fertility awareness has impacted your life or medical practice.
AND, don’t forget – we are offering these special (and FREE) opportunities for you to engage and enhance your understanding of FABMs!
JOIN US this Friday at 7 for a lively virtual happy hour conversation with our colleagues and storytellers.
Panelists will be discussing timely topics on the future of fertility awareness and attendees will have the chance to weigh in with questions and comments. And we will also have a few surprises (and prizes!) in store for you!
In case you missed it, register to hear again Anna Saucier’s interview with Ob/Gyn Dr. Summer Holmes-Mason from our Fall Virtual Conference. Their conversation covers many issues from the field of fertility awareness today and is delivered in a relatable and applicable way. You don’t want to miss it!