May 29, 2019
Editor’s Note: This week’s interview with a couple is part of a FACTS series that highlights the reality of using fertility awareness based methods (FABMs), including benefits and challenges of the various methods. A medical student who is now a medical doctor conducted the interview and wrote the article during an online elective with Dr. Marguerite Duane, Executive Director and co-founder of FACTS.
Meet the Family
Mike and Nicole have been married for three years and joined me, while holding their 10-month-old son, to discuss their experience with natural family planning (NFP). When I asked why they chose this method of family planning, they said it was a clear decision. Mike and Nicole want to live out and fully embrace their faith. Natural methods of family planning help them understand and manage their fertility while aligning well with their beliefs. Nicole’s parents also practiced NFP, and this method was not only familiar but also portrayed in a positive light.
As a registered dietitian who focuses on healthy eating and is mindful of what enters the body, Nicole explained the emphasis on being “natural” was another selling point. Mike, an engineer, was skeptical at first. Yet, he did some research and learned the underlying principles before more fully embracing FABMs. Mike and Nicole learned the Sympto-Thermal Method through the Couple to Couple League. They have been satisfied with the method and have not used any others.
The Reality of Using FABMs
When asked about the challenges of using FABMs, they replied that it is hard! When a woman is fertile, the desire to be intimate increases. They had underestimated the difficulty of abstinence during the fertile time. Another challenge was the negative stigma that surrounds the practice of NFP, and feeling like they had to defend their use of it among some friend circles. The Sympto-Thermal Method itself, though straightforward in theory, took time to master in practice. After their son was born, it was also challenging to interpret signs of returning fertility, though Mike and Nicole acknowledge they are even more open to new life after the birth of their first child.
Benefits of FABMs
The couple agreed there are many benefits to using FABMs. Nicole loves knowing what is happening inside her body. They said their trust in God has grown significantly, since it was scary to give God their fertility, something they held so dear. Surrendering their deep desires to God enhanced their prayer life. Mike said that, like fasting, NFP strengthens self-discipline and the will. They also agreed using an FABM improves communication, and Mike added that if you can have regular conversations about cervical fluid, you can discuss just about anything.
The Medical Community and FABMs
Regarding their experience with medical professionals and FABMs, Nicole just started shaking her head. They have not had good experiences in medical offices. Mike pointed out how there is always a large poster advertising family planning options, except NFP or FABMs are never mentioned. He wonders about the opinion of medical professionals towards their patients when it comes to a user-based method like NFP. Is it an intentional omission or just ignorance about NFP from the medical community? Perhaps it’s related to money or to politics. What’s interesting, they noted, is that FABMs seem to be a hit among some secular groups. Nicole and Mike use an app called Kindara to help chart and have noticed the community forum is not filled with religious people, as many might think. Instead, the forum is made up of women and couples who are primarily concerned about their health!
Reflections From a Future Physician
It was wonderful to interview a couple that is so happy and excited about life. I think it is a blessing for them to have had their faith guide them to FABMs because many couples have no way to know they exist! Not only are FABMs an option, but also a healthy option for the couple both physically and emotionally. FABMs promote an attitude of openness to life, which I think is an additional benefit for families who will not have the stress of wondering, “could we be pregnant?”
After this interview, I am even more excited to share FABMs with everyone, especially the women in my life. It is unfortunate how the medical field is either ignorant or hostile towards FABMs. Withholding the risks and benefits of all available options for family planning violates a patient’s right to make an informed decision. I think what’s most important is to provide information, which speaks for itself, and give people the right to make an informed decision.
Author Bio: EB wrote this article as a medical student at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and is now a medical doctor pursuing family medicine residency training. EB is a FACTS student ambassador and has taken the FACTS elective. About FACTS, EB said, “Being involved with FACTS has been a wonderful learning experience that I will share with as many people as possible, especially women! Understanding fertility awareness is essential for every medical practitioner. I now have an invaluable educational tool I anticipate using frequently with my future patients.” Photos shown are model representations
This month is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and we’d like to draw your attention to an article posted on our blog last year. Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Chile summarizes results from an abstinence-centered randomized controlled intervention in a Chilean public high school. Beyond summarizing the encouraging results that reach beyond pregnancy prevention into a person’s formation, this article mentions TeenSTAR, a unique educational program that integrates teaching about a woman’s signs of fertility by considering the whole person and starting early. This interactive program is not only effective in delaying the onset of sexual activity but is also well liked by teens, who learn about important choices and virtues like self-control and mutual respect.
RESIDENTS and MEDICAL STUDENTS!
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Some Benefits of Becoming a FACTS Ambassador…
- Participating in research
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- Developing public speaking and presentation skills
- Attending national meetings and learning from experts in the field
- Expanding your clinical knowledge and skills in women’s health
- Building and growing your network
- Making connections that will last your entire career
- Working with other students & residents interested in fertility awareness
- The opportunity to become a trained speaker for FACTS
- Learning from one another and growing professionally together
- Getting to work with the FACTS team!
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