If you’ve ever watched a sporting event, you’re probably familiar with the unpredictable nature of ‘momentum.’ It’s that stretch of a game where everything suddenly seems to be going right for your team. Every pass hits its mark. Impossible plays are made. Every loose ball bounces your way. As the name implies, it feels like your team is ramping up to an unstoppable velocity. It’s exciting to experience, and it leaves you with no doubt that your team will win.
I feel like we’re seeing a similar momentum building for Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM), and you can sense it among the ‘fans.’ If you spend much time in fertility or birth control circles, you will soon see that FAM advocates are kind of the CrossFit evangelists of this sphere. They want to tell everyone about this great thing they’ve found… and with good reason.
The Sport of Charting
Using a sports analogy in relation to fertility charting may seem far-fetched, but tracking menstrual cycles actually played a pretty big role in the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s recent victory at the World Cup. Dawn Scott, the team’s high performance coach told Good Morning America this week, “I feel like it’s one of many strategies that we deployed that helped us win.”
The team tracked each player’s cycle and her symptoms and then installed practices to help maximize her performance. Georgie Bruinvels, a research scientist who consulted with the team, said, “Hormonal fluctuations can affect things like biomechanics, laxity of ligaments and muscular firing patterns…the first half of the cycle and particularly the build-up to ovulation is the key risk window.” And, in fact, injuries like torn ACLs have been shown to be more prominent during this time.
Of course, athletic performance isn’t the main reason young women have begun to embrace fertility charting.
Status Quo a No Go for Hormonal Birth Control
It’s almost become a meme-like punch line to pontificate on the number of customs and businesses that Millennials are killing, but there is truth behind the notion that this generation doesn’t just accept the status quo. Market research shows that, even though many of them are in debt, they are willing to spend more on products that promote sustainability. They also prioritize health and wellness. So, Millennials may actually be killing the enigmatic stereotype of the health-conscious woman who goes out of her way to avoid synthetic steroids in her food, but then ingests a massive dose of them in her birth control.
More and more young women are questioning the wisdom of throwing their bodies out of its natural balance. They’re not just listening to what the doctor says (or doesn’t say), and they’re researching for themselves. That questioning of the status quo has led many of them to discover FAMs. Consequently, they are eager to share what they’ve found with their Pill-taking friends- especially when they hear them complain about their side effects.
The perception of FAMs has evolved significantly over the years. In the early days, the original Creighton Model and Billings Method were often disparagingly referred to as Catholic birth control. Even today, some out-of-touch doctors still confuse FAMs with the antiquated and unreliable rhythm method.
FAMs are anything but antiquated, and they’re not just for Catholics anymore. Modern devices, like the Daysy fertility monitor help women track their fertility. There are also hundreds of online apps available for a multitude of fertility methods, which allow women to chart their cycle on any operating system.
A Change of Tune
This shift in attitudes surrounding birth control is bound to have put pressure on government agencies that deal with these matters. Just a few weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) changed their reported failure rate for FAMs. After conducting a literature review, they changed from 24% as their previous failure rate to what is now posted as “2% to 23%.”
Having the CDC admit that the failure rate for FAMs could be as low as 2% is a major momentum shift. Hopefully, that momentum will continue as another government agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), now considers a petition brought forth by a group of doctors and women’s health advocates requesting that Depo Provera be removed from the market, and that new black box warnings be added to remaining hormonal birth control. These new warnings would reflect the wealth of data linking these drugs to a vast array of side effects not currently contained in the warnings. By the way, this is a great way to add your voice to the mix, as the petition is currently under review at the FDA. You can add your comment about birth control by visiting this link:
The Next Generation
It appears as though this momentum will continue into the future as FAM advocates have revealed they are committed to the long game. For example, BOMA-USA, the Billings Ovulation Method Association recently announced a capital campaign to begin training young healthcare practitioners in the method.
Craig Turczynski Ph.D., Director of Development and Strategic Planning at BOMA-USA, explained the thought behind the capital campaign, “The idea is that if we train the next generation, they will be the ones making decisions on school content in the future. We will also help those practicing already make the switch away from contraceptives by offering phone consultation with physicians experienced with fertility awareness methods. That way they are not alone trying to make treatment decisions.”
I’m excited about this plan to bring young practitioners on board. So often, young women tell me about doctors pushing them to get on hormonal birth control from a young age, saying it will treat everything from acne to heavy periods. Yet, these same doctors have very little accurate information about FAMs. By giving the next generation of doctors an alternative to hormonal birth control, we will be giving the next generation of women healthier choices as well.
Read more about why women might choose FAMs over hormonal birth control in my book, In the Name of The Pill.
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