March 2, 2023
FACTS Ambassador Feature: Theresa Sullivan
‘Women need to have options’
Why one nurse chose to become a women’s health practitioner
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 Theresa Sullivan, a women’s health nurse practitioner who found a professional passion for FABMs after the birth of her first child.
Theresa Sullivan described herself as “one of those teenagers who was put on the birth control pill” not for contraception but rather for cycle-related issues. She went on to consult a Creighton-trained NaPro doctor while in high school and college, so by the time she went to nursing school, she was familiar with fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs). Sullivan graduated with her bachelor’s in nursing in 2014 but had no interest in pursuing women’s fertility in her professional career.
“I think I was probably a little bit burnt out from it,” Sullivan said. “It’s so funny because I put a pause on that interest and then almost 10 years later, I picked it up again. I felt really grateful to have had the experience that I did because I felt like I already had this knowledge and understanding of the value of it.”
“I felt really grateful to have had the experience that I did (working with a Creighton Medical Consultant for my own personal health) because I felt like I already had this knowledge and understanding of the value of it.”
It wasn’t until after the birth of her first child, the result of a surprise pregnancy, that Sullivan said her professional interest in FABMs was piqued. After working in the ICU for several years, she decided to go back to school in 2020 to become a women’s health practitioner.
Sullivan said before the birth of her son, she and her husband were using a method of natural family planning to try to avoid pregnancy, but it wasn’t a good fit. The couple was surprised to find out about their pregnancy and Sullivan knew she wanted to get a better handle on things.
“I’m so grateful for my son,” Sullivan said, “but I didn’t feel very confident in my biomarker observations, so that’s why I started exploring more objective methods. While I was still pregnant, I did a lot of research on NFP methods and decided to switch to the Marquette Method.”
Sullivan heard about FACTS after she graduated from nursing school and when she was a nurse practitioner student, she quickly became a FACTS student ambassador. While studying to become a women’s health practitioner, she repeatedly tried to petition her professors to include webinars on FABMs in their curricula. She was met with a lot of dismissals and outright rejections, though one instructor opted to include the FACTS website in her curriculum resources.
“While studying to become a women’s health practitioner, she repeatedly tried to petition her professors to include webinars on FABMs in their curricula. She was met with a lot of dismissals and outright rejections.”
Now, Sullivan said she is part of a new FACTS program for residents and other medical professionals early in practice. They meet once a month to discuss clinical case scenarios and challenges that they may experience integrating these methods into practice. She also recently had the opportunity to exhibit at a medical conference with FACTS team members. Sullivan said it is immensely helpful to meet regularly with other colleagues early in their careers.
“It just really opened up a lot of personal testimonies, what people are encountering and how they are dealing with those issues,” Sullivan said. “It’s been good talking to people who are newer in the field too, because we are all in the same place, learning how to have tactical conversations with peers and with supervisors, bouncing ideas off each other and collaborating on ways to streamline this information for patients.”
Sullivan said this type of work is important because “women need to have options” that support their holistic well-being and hormonal health, options that are also long-lasting and can serve them throughout their reproductive lives.
“Women need to have options that support their holistic wellbeing and hormonal health, options that are also long-lasting and can serve them throughout their reproductive lives.”
“It seems like most options that women are offered from the traditional medical world comes with a price — whether that is harms to their mental health, an increased risk of blood clots or cancer, or disruption of their normal ovulatory cycle,” Sullivan said. “It seems like everything comes with side effects, and some of these may be irreversible. The great thing about practicing fertility awareness and making these options available to women is they can work cooperatively to keep their body whole and also be in control of their family planning.”
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.