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Albuquerque medical symposium highlights the validity of natural methods

Standing left to right: Marilyn Shannon, Dr. Deidre Wilson, Dr. Marguerite Duane, and Dr. Mary Lee Barron. 

Medical professionals and students gained new appreciation for NFP in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on February 3 at a CCL-planned symposium entitled, “Modern Fertility Awareness for Family Planning and Women’s Health.”

The event, hosted by CCL Teaching Couple Barry and Emilee Reinholz, could earn attendees up to 5.5 Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits by the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP).

Surrounding the symposium were related events: a FACTS presentation for the non-medical community (in particular clergy, lay marriage ministers and mentor couples largely organized by Archdiocese of Santa Fe Family Life Office) held the night before; and a smaller, informal Q&A for NFP users held Saturday evening after the main event closed.

FACTS, which stands for Fertility Appreciation Collaborative to Teach the Science, is a group of medical professionals and educators dedicated to providing the greater medical community with information and quality studies regarding fertility awareness-based methods (FABM) and natural methods of family planning. The organization is gaining momentum as one of the leading sources of medical information for NFP users, especially those seeking to bring their non-NFP Ob/Gyns up to speed about the validity of FABMs.

The symposium itself featured speeches and workshops from several big names in the NFP world, including Dr. Marguerite Duane, Dr. Deidre Wilson, Marilyn Shannon, and Dr. Mary Lee Barron.

Marguerite Duane, M.D.
Photo courtesy of ModernMobileMedicine.com

Dr. Marguerite Duane is the executive director of FACTS and an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University. She spoke on a wide range of topics, including the science of fertility awareness, the effectiveness of various methods for achieving and postponing pregnancy, the use of a woman’s cycle as the fifth vital sign for monitoring general health, and a scientific evaluation of fertility apps — complete with app recommendations.

The founder of Body and Soul Healthcare in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Deidre Wilson, stressed the importance of many of the same findings as Duane, highlighting the validity of FABMs as an effective tool for family planning and the value of understanding reproductive health as an indispensable snapshot of overall female health. Dr. Mary Lee Barron expanded more specifically on fertility applications and discussed which are reliable and backed with research.

Finally, Marilyn M. Shannon, tenured part-time instructor at Indiana University Purdue University at Ft. Wayne and best-selling author of CCL’s Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition and “Shorter, Lighter, Pain-Free Periods,” shared her invaluable area of expertise: common causes of cycle irregularity and how to manage them naturally.

The medical symposium was a success, attended by more than 50 nurse practitioners, midwives, physical therapists, physicians, prolife nonprofits and pregnancy centers from all across New Mexico — and even one from Texas. According to attendees, the networking at lunch and during breaks was “incredible” and, although not explicitly a Catholic event, the Catholic undertones and flavor provided an opportunity for evangelization.

Marilyn M. Shannon

The surrounding events were also well-attended, with about 75 people participating in Friday night’s presentation and a lively Q&A the following night featuring Marilyn Shannon; Dr. Ann Church, a Napro Technology Ob/Gyn physician from Grants, New Mexico; and Angelique Garcia, director of the local St. Joseph FertilityCare Center.

Albuquerque is in desperate need for this sort of programming. With abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy, the city is considered the late-term abortion capital of the nation. It comes as no surprise that the contraceptive mentality is strong there as well. While an NFP community in Albuquerque exists and is growing, resources are sparse and hard to come by. Only three NFP-aware doctors practice in the entire state, making New Mexico a desert state in more ways than one.

Barry and Emilee Reinholz, the CCL teaching couple responsible for creating and hosting the weekend, personally experienced the lack of NFP support after the birth of their first daughter. Their hunt for doctors who could help them navigate the postpartum return of fertility without resorting to contraceptives was a frustrating and almost fruitless task. When they became a teaching couple, the problem became all the more obvious.

“We had students who were getting excited about NFP and would go to their doctors and be told, ‘No, it won’t work. You need back-up contraception.’ There’s just not support in Albuquerque,” Emilee explained.

The Reinholzes were motivated to help, but with the addition of their second daughter they weren’t planning on doing anything too big. At least, not at first.

“The idea morphed from [Emilee] and I doing something ourselves to getting some speakers,” Barry recalled, but it kept growing from there. In order to reach doctors, they realized they’d have to go to other doctors.

“We knew it wouldn’t make a difference to have us talking to medical professionals,” said Emilee. “We could see that talking to the doctors we had. They didn’t really listen. They didn’t think we had any [medical expertise].”

Finally, the couple arrived at the plan for the symposium — involving three events in two days. They reached out for logistical and planning assistance and found many people in the area thirsting for such a meeting of minds. Local CCL couples were among the first to respond, including the Halladas, Stotzer and Francis families, but soon unfamiliar names surfaced as well.

Barry and Emilee Reinholz

Emilee and Barry were joyfully blown away by the willingness of strangers to volunteer. “We worked with a team including three other CCL teaching couples, one CCL promoter couple, the director of our local Creighton Model fertility center, a FertilityCare practitioner, our pastor, and a Family of the America’s instructor — who used to teach for CCL with her husband,” Emilee said. “Most importantly, people all over the state — and country! — were praying for this event, for the planning team and for those in attendance.”

Barry added that in volunteer situations like this, the littlest things have a huge impact. “To anyone who gave a prayer or a dollar, it really helped. Every little bit that people gave was so successful. It really showed what an opportunity God made of it.”

The objective of the symposium was to provide an “informative, medically- and scientifically-based event” for the uninitiated or skeptical in the medical community, as well as to support and form those individuals already aware of FABMs.

“We just wanted to spread awareness that there are scientifically valid methods [for NFP],” Emily said. “Both for ourselves and for our students, because we’re just not getting that out there.”

It seems this goal was accomplished. Among other grace-filled interactions that weekend, a pair of medical professionals visiting the symposium from a prochoice institution were amazed to discover the precision of fertility science and couldn’t believe more women didn’t know about FABMs. They returned to their organization, determined find a way to incorporate FABMs into their work with women. Hopefully, the Reinholzes said, this would be the beginning of a radically transformative journey for the two women.

The biggest takeaway for the organizers was the importance of surrounding NFP users with reliable support from teachers and pastors to doctors. In order to really build a flourishing NFP community in an ideological desert, scientific, pastoral and educational resources need to be built up as well.

In an email, Emilee suggested four ways other NFP users can support their little community from across the nation:

  • Prayer!
  • Encourage full NFP instruction in marriage prep in all dioceses.
  • Share information about NFP with primary care providers. (Natural Womanhood and FACTS put together an excellent secular “Medical Update” handout for patients to give their doctors.)
  • Financial help, because programming just can’t happen without it.

In fact, the biggest financial giftt for the symposium came from CCL Chapter 312 in Mesa, Arizona — a different state altogether.

With the success of a symposium, awareness of the resources and experience with the process, the Reinholz family says they’d be willing to help put another event together in the future, but with two little ones quickly becoming mobile, they’d be happy to pass the reins and assume an advisory role. After all, it’s all about support.

— Forest Hempen
Marketing and Communications Associate