FACTS Infertility Awareness Series
Using a Data-driven Method to Address Infertility
By Molly Svendsen
Executive Director’s note: As we mark National Infertility Awareness Week, this interesting patient interview highlights how FABMs can empower women and men with knowledge about their fertile window and the factors that can contribute to infertility. It also illustrates why it is so important for physicians and medical professionals to learn more about these methods, in order to help their patients address infertility in a more timely manner.
If you are a physician, other medical professional or fertility educator, take the next step to learn more about the role of FABMs. Join us for our 2022 Virtual Conference, For the Future of Women’s Health, or participate in our continuing medical education online course, Fertility Awareness Based Methods (FABMs) for Family Planning and Restorative Reproductive Women’s Healthcare.
Meet Lilianna* and her husband, Steve*, one of many couples that have struggled with infertility. Initially, they wanted to avoid pregnancy without using hormonal methods, so they solely relied on barrier methods such as condoms. They joked with each other about being more cautious, but it seemed to work for them.
In 2017, the couple began to actively try to conceive. However, following 18 months of regular intercourse, Lilianna became increasingly concerned about their ability to get pregnant. Adding to the couple’s worries was Steve’s family history; Steve’s father had a low sperm count when he was younger, and he and his wife had difficulty conceiving. Naturally, this made Steve concerned about his own situation. When he had a workup with his family physician including sperm count and analysis, however, his physician reassured him that everything was within normal limits.
Lilianna was 37 years old when they started trying to get pregnant, and she was worried that waiting so long would prevent her from ever conceiving naturally. During this period, they were having intercourse three to five times a week, regardless of the time in her cycle. Gradually, the stress over not being able to conceive began to strain their relationship, and communication with each other became very limited.
Learning the Creighton Model
It was during this challenging period that Lilianna was first introduced to the Creighton Model; her sister-in-law had used the method to achieve two pregnancies and avoid subsequent pregnancies. Her sister-in-law was very happy with this method and had actually been tracking her ovulation and cycle prior to family planning. Lilianna promptly decided to go to the same Creighton instructional course, attended virtually, and got right to work.
Initially, Lilianna reported some difficulty and awkwardness in communicating with her husband about timing sexual intercourse to be most effective in achieving conception. However, they both agreed using the method eventually increased their overall communication and led to a shared involvement with charting and tracking Lilianna’s ovulation cycle. The couple also said that having a “data-driven” method for achieving pregnancy relieved a lot of the stress and burden they were both feeling, which may have contributed to the infertility.
“Using the method eventually increased their overall communication and led to shared involvement with charting and tracking her ovulation cycle.”
For Lilianna, the details of cervical mucus character, composition, and sensation were initially a bit overwhelming to track. However, with time and practice, she began to enjoy the detail-oriented method. When she first started using Creighton, she only tracked mucus presence and vulvar sensation, whether she was wet or dry. And as she grew more comfortable with the method, she started adding in all the other details.
After just four months of using the Creighton model, they conceived and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in November. They decided to continue using this model throughout Lilianna’s postpartum period to avoid pregnancy. She has since become an advocate for Creighton in her Bible study and mother support groups. The new parents commented repeatedly throughout the interview that the Creighton model was not only the most efficient, easiest way to keep track of all her fertility data, but a “lifesaver” for their relationship. Looking back, Lilianna wished either her physician or her husband’s physician had known about FABMs; having accessed this knowledge earlier would have spared them the struggle of 18 months of infertility fears and uncertainties.
Through this interview, I witnessed how the Creighton Model can make a huge difference in the life of a couple trying to conceive — or not to conceive. I had not realized how stressful these situations can be for couples, and I found it so interesting that they were both very relieved to find in FABMs a reliable and data-driven method to keep track of their fertility window.
*All names have been changed to respect the privacy of the interviewees, and all information is shared with permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly K Svendsen is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine. She participated in the FABM elective taught by Dr. Marguerite Duane during her fourth year of medical school. Upon graduation, she plans to specialize in family medicine.