May 4, 2023
FACTS Ambassador Feature: Erin Kay, DO
‘Women deserve better’: Why this medical resident pursued FABM certification
By: Mariel Padilla
Editor’s Note: FACTS Ambassadors are medical or health professional students and residents from across the country (and the world!) who desire to learn more about fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) and choose to share this information with colleagues to educate them about FABMs. This month, we are featuring Dr. Erin Kay, a first-year family medicine resident who plans to focus her future practice on restorative reproductive medicine.
As a 19-year-old college student, Erin was struggling with irregular menstrual cycles. When she presented to her OB, the doctor recommended and inserted an intrauterine device (IUD) in response to her concerns. But within weeks, Erin said, she experienced terrible side effects.
“I had a horrific, horrific reaction,” Erin said. “I became so incredibly anxious that it was difficult to function, and I had to be medicated. I was almost institutionalized. The only factor that had changed was the introduction of the IUD, and my symptoms immediately started resolving after it was finally removed a year later.”
Erin explained that combined oral contraceptives were not viable alternatives for her because she had just been diagnosed with a rare clotting disorder. She had purchased a pack of pills, but fortunately had yet to consume any before the diagnosis; doing so could have resulted in a stroke or death.
“I became very concerned that I didn’t have full informed consent when being given these drugs and was not told about any of the potential side effects,” Erin said. “So by the time I got to medical school, I was already reading everything I could on the Internet and in textbooks about contraceptives and women’s health. I realized that the women’s health care system was severely lacking in what it could offer women.”
Erin said her personal background and negative experiences with birth control made her interested and more receptive to fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs). When she heard about FACTS before her second year of medical school, she quickly signed up for the elective to learn more.
“Erin said her personal background and negative experiences with birth control made her interested and more receptive to fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs).”
“I loved the FACTS elective,” Erin said. “It really started putting everything together for me. I was reading all these articles about normal female physiology and watching these lectures that went much more in-depth than my medical school education. I learned how you can work to restore normal female physiology, not just suppress it. It’s a more comprehensive approach to address common women’s healthcare concerns.”
At the time, a lot of her friends were talking about how they had been hurt by birth control or how they were struggling with infertility. Erin knew that she wanted her future practice of medicine to honor the female body, without suppressing it or dismissing it as too complicated or inconvenient for the medical system.
“Erin knew that she wanted her future practice of medicine to honor the female body, without suppressing it or dismissing it as too complicated or inconvenient for the medical system.”
“It was revolutionary for me as a medical student,” Erin said. “It just really solidified that I want to do restorative reproductive medicine because it’s really needed, and there are not enough practitioners out there providing patients the quality care that they deserve.”
Shortly after taking the elective, Erin emailed Dr. Marguerite Duane, the co-founder and executive director of FACTS, about becoming more involved as an ambassador. Erin also began a month-long research project during her fourth year of medical school, working with Dr. Duane to explore women’s experiences with their medical practitioners when discussing FABMs.
“What we found was abysmal,” Erin said. “It was actually really depressing: the way that most women’s health medical professionals think that FABMs are just the rhythm method, a method created in the 1920s before the introduction of antibiotics. There were some women who said doctors made really disrespectful comments or did not understand them at all.”
Presently, Erin is a resident ambassador with FACTS and recently became certified in Fertility Education and Medical Management (FEMM), a method that focuses on charting and recognizing the patterns of estrogen, progesterone, follicular stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone. Erin said this certification and the scientific basis of these methods help her convince her attendings that she can offer more options and resources to patients through FABMs.
“The scientific basis of these methods helps her convince her attendings that she can offer more options and resources to patients through FABMs.”
“For too long, women’s bodies have been deemed too medically complex and not recognized as physiologically different from men,” Erin said. “And because they’ve been seen as too complicated, they’ve been silenced. It’s much easier to prescribe a pill than to actually get to the root cause of the problem. Women deserve better quality health care that actually addresses their concerns and provides more ethical, moral, and less expensive alternatives to infertility treatment.”
Mariel Padilla is a journalist working with us as editor of the FACTS blog. In her full-time job, Mariel writes about the intersection between gender, politics and policy — but she was introduced to the FACTS team by her brother, Mikey. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s probably reading, painting or playing with her niece and nephew who live down the street.