Much of the information below was originally posted in an earlier article “Why Aren’t Doctors Offering Natural Family Planning Options?”, but given the amount of incorrect and biased information that exists around natural family planning, we think it’s useful to revisit.
Research shows that of the more than 10 million women in the U.S. who have used a natural birth control option, less than 1% of these women found out about it from their doctors. Instead they are learning about natural family planning from friends, non-medical counselors, books, and the internet. Clearly women are interested in using natural birth control options so why aren’t doctors offering them?
This video does a good job of outlining the issues:
Why Doctors Should Offer Natural Birth Control Like CycleBeads
But the key reasons are:
1) A Belief That Patients Aren’t Interested in Natural Birth Control Options
We often hear from doctors that they don’t think their patients are interested in using a natural birth control option. “They want a shot or a pill”, they tell us. This is true for some women, but the fact is that 1 in 5 women say that they would be interested in using a fertility awareness-based method of family planning when they are given accurate information about these methods.
2) Many Natural Birth Control Options Are Difficult to Teach to a Patient
Traditionally, natural family planning has been difficult to teach. Many natural family planning options require extensive training to use correctly and may take many hours or even days to learn. Therefore, doctors were not able to teach their patients these methods in a normal clinic setting. Newer options like the Standard Days Method on which CycleBeads are based, and the TwoDay Method which relies on simple observations, were designed specifically to address this issue. Both of these methods can be taught in a normal clinic visit in less than 15 minutes.
3) Many Natural Birth Control Options Are Difficult to Use Correctly
Most natural family planning methods are difficult to use correctly. While the Perfect Use efficacy rates for some of these methods are extremely high, the Typical Use efficacy rates are often low. This is due to the fact that some of the methods are complex and that users are likely to make mistakes. But again, newer options like CycleBeads and the TwoDay Method have high typical use efficacy rates with 88% and 87% typical use effectiveness, and therefore address this concern. In fact these two options are the most effective, non-hormonal, user directed methods available in terms of typical effectiveness because they are so easy to use:
4) Natural Birth Control Options Are Often Promoted by Religious Organizations
In the past, natural family planning options were promoted primarily by religious organizations and many still are. This has created an environment where some healthcare providers are uncomfortable. While some healthcare providers find this is consistent with their religious views, others don’t want to hear about these methods because they don’t trust the messenger. More recently, secular organizations have begun to offer fertility awareness-based methods. The idea being that natural family planning isn’t meant to replace other effective options. It is simply another option that can be a great choice for many women.
5) A Belief That Natural Birth Control Is Only for “Religious People”
Many people think of natural birth control methods as something that only a religious, and most likely Catholic, person would use. Part of this belief stems from the fact that religious organizations have historically been the ones promoting natural family planning. But there are a number of reasons why women use natural methods and most of them have nothing to do with religion. A majority of women tell us that they choose a natural family planning option because of their concerns about side effects with hormonal options. They also like that these methods are empowering, help them better understand their bodies, and are effective as well as inexpensive.
6) There Are Few Economic Incentives
As they say, “money makes the world go round”. It costs money to educate and train providers, generate awareness, and maintain quality control. That’s a difficult problem with fertility awareness-based family planning options because frankly they are based on knowledge and don’t rely on expensive devices, services, or chemicals. While there are books and tools that can help a woman to use these methods, there are simply not the same financial incentives in place as there are with products from pharmaceutical companies who have a vested interest in advertising, educating, and pushing their wares. So, a key challenge is that there are few companies, organizations, or individuals with economic incentives to promote these methods.
Despite the above challenges, the situation is slowly changing and an increasing number of healthcare providers are offering natural family planning options. For instance, CycleBeads are now offered by hundreds of Planned Parenthoods, state and local health departments, and other clinics that previously offered no natural options to their patients. However many challenges still exist in educating the healthcare community about natural family planning options and ensuring that they are available to the many women who would benefit from them.
Tags: challenges of offering natural family planning, CycleBeads, fertility awareness, natural birth control, natural family planning, provider bias, standard days method, twoday method, typical use efficacy