By Alison Contreras, PhD, FCP
March 20, 2018
An Engineer’s Journey to Fertility Awareness
My path toward a passion for fertility awareness was rather unique. Although I started college as a pre-med student, I preferred the immediate gratification of designing practical solutions to real world problems in my engineering classes. (Also, the uncanny ability of pre-med students to memorize anything terrified me!) It turns out I had something in common with physicians after all, since we share that same love of discovering solutions to problems to improve people’s lives. Still, my appreciation for our living environment led me to study environmental engineering. I was especially interested in sustainable design, and intrigued by developing systems that harmonize with our natural environment to maintain ecological balance. In my doctorate work, I studied ways to improve the efficiency of drinking water desalination technologies.
So how did that lead me to fertility awareness? I actually see my two interests as quite similar.
I see charting as a man-made solution to the question of how to monitor and manage a woman’s cyclical fertility. While it’s easier for some women than others, charting requires discipline and instruction in order to learn to track the biomarkers of their reproductive cycle so systematically. Yet, as a family planning solution, charting signs of fertility and modifying your sexual behavior based on your family planning goals (as opposed to finding another way to alter or suppress your fertility) has the practical result of being sustainable. Once learned, this education provides a free way for a woman to manage her reproductive life without the concerns of side effects from medication. My interest in finding sustainable solutions through engineering also led me to teach others to manage their fertility through charting.
As an instructor trained in the Symptothermal and also the Creighton Method, I have now taught women and couples to manage their fertility for nearly a decade. As a fertility educator, I noticed that the couples with a supportive community that included their physician were the most successful at using FABMs for family planning. It can be a major obstacle if a woman’s physician has never been taught about charting or fertility awareness. One of my main goals in joining FACTS was to help educate the medical community on the best evidence that exists, as well as to push for more research to help improve the lives and outcomes of women and couples who use FABMs. I am so glad that I’ve been able to achieve this by working with the team at FACTS.
Social Media Manager
Alison has been an integral part of our work at FACTS since 2011, helping shape our vision and define our mission and goals. She completed and published the apps research project, presented this and other research at annual conferences, and created the Student Ambassador program. She managed the blog and website development early on, as well as other “behind the scenes” projects. Alison has previously served FACTS as Director of Programs and is currently working as the Social Media Manager.
When she’s not working, you can find her tinkering in her garden, camping, baking sourdough, or knitting, not necessarily simultaneously, but all while also enjoying time with her husband and two young sons.