More millennial women than ever are turning to fertility-awareness-based methods, not simply for a natural way to plan their families, but as a way to keep track of their bodily health and well-being without putting hormones or artificial devices into their bodies.
“I’m a millennial, and we’re just kind of tired of anything that looks like it’s from the 1970s, especially for our health,” Cassie Moriarity, a 29-year-old Catholic woman living in New York City, told the Register.
New digital technology has been transforming fertility-awareness-based methods, or FABMs, and empowering millennials like Moriarity to take charge of their health and fertility. It has also offered them natural family planning alternatives to artificial forms of birth control, such as the pill or intrauterine devices (IUDs).
Moriarity, a married mother of one child, said she began tracking her health through FABMs when she was 20, keeping charts through her favorite apps on her phone. After getting married, she used a variety of FABMs to conceive and then postpone pregnancy. Today, Moriarity uses the app-based FEMM (Fertility Education and Medical Management) Healthsystem and is an instructor who teaches classes one-on-one or via Google Hangouts.
“What I really liked about FEMM was the model really simplified a lot of NFP material,” she said, explaining the method relies on one main fertility sign as a biomarker of women’s health and fertility.
Overall, FABMs and NFP are leaving the niche world of Catholic and Christian communities for the secular mainstream.
Because more millennials are adopting FABMs, particularly as forms of natural family planning (NFP), scientific researchers are giving them renewed scrutiny. Meanwhile, they are generating pushback from advocates of artificial birth control.
Alarmed that more than 400,000 people worldwide had downloaded the FEMM app, The Guardian newspaper launched a broadside against FEMM. The United Kingdom-based publication alleged FEMM had a hidden pro-life and anti-birth-control agenda and stated NFP methods had 23% failure rates to prevent pregnancy.
But The Guardian’s reporting came just as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new data on NFP method rates. The CDC has now acknowledged, based on a 2018 systematic review published in the American Centers of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) journal, Obstetrics and Gynecology, that typical failure rates to prevent pregnancy in NFP actually range between 2% and 23%, depending on the method.
A University of Iowa study published in 2009 predicted that the obstacle to widespread adoption of FABMs was simply lack of information. While between 1% and 3% of women in the U.S. use fertility-awareness methods to postpone pregnancy, the study found that number could jump to 1 out of 5 women if they were informed about these methods.
“Knowledge is increasing, people are following this closely, and they’re looking for healthy alternatives,” Anna Halpine, CEO of FEMM Health, said. Halpine said FEMM has users all over the world, and its use is growing, particularly in Latin America and Africa. Many users are not wealthy, and at the FEMM-affiliated clinic in Columbus, Ohio, half of the users are Medicaid patients.
Read more at National Catholic Register