The Real Reasons Ob/Gyns Don’t Like The Fertility Awareness Method

Let’s get real for a second: If you’re a woman of childbearing age trying to avoid pregnancy without the use of mainstream birth control and you’re looking to the established medical community for help, you’re up a creek without a paddle, as my grandmother would say.

By Gwen Farrell3 min read
The Real Reasons Ob/Gyns Don’t Like The Fertility Awareness Method

Even now, “alternative” options like fertility awareness (no matter the amount of research or their actual efficacy) are still shunned for the most part by traditional gynecologists. There are a few reasons why Ob/Gyns don’t like the fertility awareness method (FAM), and they’re not because these healthcare professionals are putting your best interests first.

We go to doctors for answers, but many women frequently report that they feel ignored or outright embarrassed and humiliated by these medical professionals, myself included. Meanwhile, doctors advertise their own issues with public confidence in their profession and patient compliance. There’s a disconnect here between patients and healthcare, and it could be ameliorated by acknowledging these very real issues.

It’s Not Profitable

FAM is completely free, not to mention an effective method of birth control, whether you’re trying to avoid conception or actively trying to conceive.

While my monthly birth control pack usually ran me about $40 (the irony isn’t lost on me that I was basically out hundreds of dollars a year to make myself mentally ill), now that I practice FAM, I’m out about $8 for the cost of a basal body thermometer, which I use first thing in the morning to take my BBT. Two years into this journey, that’s the only money I’ve spent on FAM, aside from a few books, and I’ve not only had the results I was looking for, I’m happier than ever.

Two years in, and I’ve bought a basal body thermometer and a few books, and that’s it.

It’s not out of line to say that there’s an epidemic of overprescribing birth control in the women’s health community, often with unfortunate results. And remember: hormonal birth control doesn’t treat your period issues, your acne, or any other irregularities. Instead, it masks symptoms of what your reproductive system is trying to tell you, and covers them up with the often harsh, unintended side effects of artificial hormones. 

Big Pharma is a force in this country, and our medical community is very susceptible to the sheer influence (not to mention money) that those kinds of relationships can yield. Millions of women (10.6 million to be exact) are using birth control, and it’s a billion dollar industry. Pharmaceutical companies actively work with doctors to push their marketing and their products, even in your local gynecologist’s waiting area or exam room. FAM just doesn’t generate that kind of profit, even though its advantages can be far greater for the average woman.

It’s Not Widely Accepted

When you think of so-called alternative or naturopathic medicine, what comes to mind? Even as someone who sees naturopathic physicians, to me it conjures heavy reliance on essential oils and crystals and ayahuasca retreats…

For whatever reason, FAM continues to be largely regarded by many medical professionals as pseudoscience. One medical student, who recently took issue with a FAM-related post I offered up on my social media, labeled it “predatory” (which is ironic to me, given that millions of women are prescribed hormonal birth control with no warning or understanding whatsoever of its possible side effects).

Many also make the association that FAM users are anti-science, anti-vax, anti-medicine, etc. In fact, I first discovered FAM through my older sister who is a registered nurse and extremely pro-science.

Many make the association that FAM users are anti-science, anti-vax, and anti-medicine.

I’ve never been in med school or even a fly on the wall in any upper-level biology class, but it probably doesn’t take a genius to guess that FAM is relegated to the shady “alternative” practices when it’s mentioned, if at all, in medical school for future doctors. When they go into practice themselves, they’re poised to prescribe medication and discourage “all natural” practices, through no fault of their own.

Never mind that FAM, when used correctly, is over 99% effective, and that it has no side effects (other than being empowered or knowing your own body, if you’re down for that). 

Period Issues Can Be “Treated”

Young physicians getting started in their professions may feel as any person passionate about their career does – hopeful, and slightly misguided that they will change the entire world through their work. It’s this attitude that can give doctors an air of superiority, not to mention reinforce their own biases (especially on alternative medicine). If you’ve ever felt like your doctor isn’t really listening to what you’re saying, you know what I’m talking about.

If your periods are irregular, if you’re having trouble getting a period (or even getting rid of one), and you’re having extensive pain while menstruating, these are all signs that your body is trying to tell you something. For me, extreme period pain, so much so that I would have to stay in bed the first two days, meant that I had uterine fibroids. Had I been prescribed birth control to “treat” those harsh symptoms, I probably never would have found that out and gotten the actual treatment I needed.

Birth control doesn’t “treat” anything. It merely covers up the signs that something is wrong. 

Once again, hormonal birth control doesn’t “treat” anything. It merely covers up the signs and symptoms that something is potentially wrong. With FAM, there is no covering up those messages and you’re better equipped to listen. 

Closing Thoughts

If the overall tone of this piece sounds a little exasperated, that’s purposeful. While the FAM community as a whole is growing in numbers, and growing in mainstream acceptance, it’s still judged harshly for what it supposedly is, and what it isn’t, and throughout my birth-control-to-FAM journey, I’ve observed that firsthand.

There are actually doctors out there who have no issue with FAM and are eager to talk about it with patients. They’re few and far between, but as any FAM user knows, once you find them you have to hold on to them.

In the meantime, if you’re a FAM user, beginner, or just interested in it, don’t be discouraged if your doctor isn’t convinced. You know your own body regardless of what they say or prescribe, and there are others who’ve been there before. Just because a doctor thinks it’s sketchy doesn’t mean that it hasn’t worked for countless women, who continue to live their lives, enjoy intimacy, their relationships and their children, free from artificial hormones.

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