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Bringing “fertility awareness” to the medical community

Conferences are being organized around the country by a group dedicated to educating healthcare professionals about evidence-based fertility awareness.

Participants gather for the FACTS' "Modern Fertility Awareness for Family Planning and Women’s Health" conference in Cleveland, February 23, 2019. (Photo via www.facebook.com/factsaboutfertility)

Marguerite Duane, M.D., was a family-medicine resident setting her postpartum patients up with birth control when she first learned that there were family-planning alternatives with no side effects. She was dumbfounded that she could have gone that far in her medical career without ever hearing of fertility-awareness-based methods (FABMs). It was a turning point in her life.

Over the next 10 years, Dr. Duane learned more about FABMs, met others who were working to get the word out, and began teaching and giving talks about the science behind these methods. In the early 2010s, she met with like-minded colleagues, and they decided to take it to the next level, forming the Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science (FACTS), a project under the umbrella of the non-profit Family Medicine Education Consortium.

The source of doctors’ ignorance of modern FABMs is the commonly held but mistaken belief that the only natural form of family planning is “the rhythm method,” which rose to prominence nearly a century ago. Medical schools generally spend very little time covering any natural method of family planning, and when they do, they usually state (erroneously) that it has only a 76 percent effectiveness rate. FACTS is countering these problems head-on; its mission is “to educate future healthcare professionals about evidence-based fertility awareness methods…so they may empower and engage patients to care for their reproductive health.”

Fulfilling that mission depends heavily on presenting the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of FABMs. The research tab on the FACTS website provides links to dozens and dozens of studies published in medical journals demonstrating that these methods are scientific and highly effective. In addition to these resources, they offer webinars, online electives to medical students, and a nationwide network of speakers trained to give presentations to both medical and general audiences.

In 2019, FACTS has added a series of conferences to its education efforts, entitled Precision Women’s Health: Modern Fertility Awareness for Family Planning and Women’s Health. The first conference was held this past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. The online description reads: “Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of physicians are not familiar with FABMs, how their effectiveness rates compare to OCPs [oral contraceptive pills], and how the information recorded on women’s charts can aid in the diagnosis and management of common women’s health concerns. To address this knowledge gap FACTS is presenting a series of conferences designed to equip medical and health professionals to offer more holistic healthcare options for women.”

The conference covers not only an overview of FABMs and their applications for common women’s health conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), but also a discussion of fertility apps, the female cycle as the “fifth vital sign,” and an extensive Q&A with a panel of experts. The conference also offers continuing education credits for medical professionals.

Catholic World Report spoke with several attendees at the close of the conference to gauge their response; everyone’s feedback was very positive.

Summer Holmes-Mason, a practicing OB/Gyn, already familiar with the Ovulation Method and recommending it to patients, came to learn about other FABMs. She credited FACTS with helping her to fill in the gaps in her education in this area. She believes FABMs to be an optimal choice for many women, citing their effectiveness, low cost, and freedom from any side effects. “They’re also good methods for health monitoring,” she added, “such as thyroid disorders or tumors, for example…. Personally and professionally, I think that every young woman should learn to chart in adolescence.”

Naomi Vernelson, a labor and delivery nurse, said, “I would absolutely recommend this conference to anyone; I would feel very comfortable bringing a non-religious person here because it was scientifically rounded.” Suzanne Mazhuvanchery, a medical student who attended the conference, agreed: “It is inviting to people of all backgrounds. It is evidence-based medicine.”

Jasmine Campbell, a third-year medical student who wants to be either an OB/Gyn or family-medicine doctor, explained, “I decided to come [to the FACTS conference] to learn more, because they don’t teach this in medical school.” She found the research and evidence resources helpful: “If a teacher or doctor was challenging me on what I learned, I could say, ‘Okay, well, you can go and read it yourself.’ And we wouldn’t see anything different, because it’s fact-based.” In the future as a physician, she said, “I definitely think that now that it’s on my radar, it’s something that I’d like to employ.”

Rajshri Moshi, a second-year medical student interested in obstetrics and gynecology, also found the conference enlightening and came away with a similar resolution: “When I go into practice, I will definitely be using that.”

Two additional Precision Women’s Health Precision conferences are upcoming. The next will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 5, 2019, from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm; a third will be held in Dallas, Texas, in the fall of 2019.


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About Jeanette Flood 17 Articles
Jeanette Flood is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and their six children. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, she received her M.A. from the Catholic University of America. Her first book, How Do I Love Thee?, will be published by Ignatius Press in 2019.

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