“This Really Works!” A Nurse’s Journey to FABMs
By: Kailyn Baalman, MD
Director’s Note: Throughout her years in training to become a physician, Dr. Kailyn Baalman had never encountered natural or fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) until enrolling in the FACTS elective. In this interview, Dr. Baalman highlights a fellow medical professional’s journey to FABMs. Cathy Reilly, a registered nurse, has also been a faithful financial supporter of FACTS, for which we are incredibly grateful! Walking through Cathy’s timeline, you might find that her story resonates with your own. If you have used FABMs and would like to share your story with one of our elective students, let us know here! Additionally, if you would like to join Cathy and support our mission at FACTS, please do so here. Thank you!
Cathy Reilly received her RN degree in New York in 1972. In 1974, she and her husband moved to Maryland with a four-month-old and shortly thereafter became pregnant with her second baby.
At that point, Cathy shared she had little knowledge about her fertility and how to best plan for her family. She was familiar with diaphragms and the birth control pill, but the pill was still relatively new and unappealing to her. In an attempt to postpone further pregnancies, she tried a diaphragm and spermicide but was surprised when her pap smears began to indicate cellular changes. Although her obstetrician reassured her that these contraceptive methods were unrelated to the abnormal results, Cathy noted that upon stopping those methods her paps returned to normal.
In the early 1980s, Cathy first heard about the Sympto-Thermal Method (STM). When she and her husband attended a class to learn the method, she finally began to understand what was happening in her own body. She felt a sense of relief and empowerment that she had been seeking for so many years. She and her husband used the STM for the next 23 years both to avoid and achieve pregnancy.
“When she and her husband attended a class to learn the method, she finally began to understand what was happening in her own body. She felt a sense of relief and empowerment that she had been seeking for so many years.”
In the 1990s through the 2000s, Cathy worked as a Registered Nurse at a Medical Pregnancy Center where she helped to provide ultrasounds, initial prenatal care, and prenatal vitamins. It was during this time that she realized just how little women knew and understood their bodies – it wasn’t just her! After gaining this knowledge, Cathy and her husband became a sponsor couple to work with couples preparing for marriage in their local church.
In 2012, Cathy became acquainted with Dr. Marguerite Duane and FACTS. According to Cathy, Dr. Duane and FACTS organized all the FABMs under one umbrella, making it easier to educate physicians and other health care professionals about the various effective and natural options available to their patients.
Cathy continued her own education in fertility awareness; she enrolled in a course and was trained in the Creighton Model as a Creighton Model FertilityCare Practitioner (CFCP).
“Women really need to understand how amazing their bodies are,” Cathy said. “They deserve to have these tools.”
In her years as a CFCP, Cathy remembers very clearly a client she worked with after becoming certified. This client was a 16-year-old girl with terrible PMS symptoms that limited her ability to function on those days. She experienced severe cramping, headaches, depression, mood swings and irritability. The girl’s primary care practitioner encouraged her to start the pill. The client’s mother was familiar with the Creighton Model and wanted her daughter to have a better understanding of her cycle, so they could investigate the root cause. Cathy recalls that her client’s period lasted 4 to 5 days with perfect mucus building to ovulation. However, on peak plus 3, her next cycle would start. She had no luteal phase and was bleeding every 2 to 3 weeks. After reviewing the lab work, Cathy found that she had virtually no progesterone. The girl was put on supplemental progesterone by her new clinician, and her cycle was regulated within a few short months, completely changing her life.
Cathy recalls saying to herself, “OMG, this really works!!”
Cathy spent 11 years as a successful CFCP. She has worked collaboratively with NaPro-trained medical professionals to help with issues, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, abnormal uterine bleeding, and infertility. She has given talks around the community and plays a large role in spreading the word about empowering women through FABMs.
As of June 2023, Cathy no longer teaches the Creighton Model, but her work in fertility awareness is far from over. While listening to “The Hormone Genius Podcast,” she discovered a new approach to educating women as a hormone coach and plans to begin the process this fall.
My interview with Cathy revealed how empowering teaching FABMs can be. There is a growing network of clinicians, and I hope to be a part of that network. Cathy shared several resources with me that she regularly recommends to her patients, including “The Hormone Genius” podcast, and a directory of Creighton practitioners at fertilitycare.net, a fantastic complement to the FACTS Physician/Clinician directory. She also noted numerous times how comprehensive and invaluable the FACTS website is for patients and medical professionals alike. In closing, we discussed how to bring FABMs up to patients as a family doctor, as she remarked these methods should be included in any conversation about sexual health, reproductive health, and contraception. Comprehensive patient education that includes FABMs equips patients with the knowledge and power to make the best decision for their body and their health.
“Comprehensive patient education that includes FABMs equips patients with the knowledge and power to make the best decision for their body and their health.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kailyn Baalman, MD
Kailyn Baalman, MD is an intern at the family medicine residency program at St. Luke’s Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis, MO. She attended medical school at the University of Illinois Chicago in Rockford, IL and is interested in preventative medicine, health education and women’s health. She is passionate about primary care because of the opportunity to really teach her patients about their bodies and equip them with the knowledge to make informed decisions about their healthcare. Kailyn enrolled in the FACTS elective because she was unfamiliar with FABMs and after completing the course she feels compelled to continue her education on restorative women’s health.