Fertility Awareness Educator, Fertility Awareness Instructor, Natural Family Planning Instructor, Natural Family Planning Teacher. Different names for the same thing. I get this question a lot from people who don’t know what the term “fertility awareness” means. If you missed my last post, you can read all about what Fertility Awareness is here!
But what is a Fertility Awareness Educator?
A Fertility Awareness Educator is someone who has been trained to teach individuals and couples how to use Fertility Awareness or Natural Family Planning. They should be professionally trained and certified by an organization that is qualified. Ideally one that is backed by appropriate research.
Some examples of the longest running organizations and their methods: the Billings Ovulation Method® developed and taught by WOOMB International and its affiliates, Natural Family Planning Teachers Association, Sensiplan®, and Couple to Couple League.
As discussed in the previous post, methods backed by research were studied by a trained instructor working with the study participants for a minimum of 3 months. It is this direct, one-to-one contact that is vital to the success of fertility awareness users.
A warning about untrained “Fertility Awareness Educators” and others
There are many people who call themselves Fertility Awareness Educators or Instructors who have had no training at all. They also sometimes go by other titles such as Fertility Coach, Fertility Doula, Cycle Coach, Fertility Awareness Coach, etc..
They often have enough of an understanding of the menstrual cycle and fertility that they can look really professional on social media. But too often they don’t know enough, or spread harmful misinformation unknowingly.
Why training matters
Training as a Fertility Awareness Educator/Natural Family Planning teacher takes 1-3 years. The first portion is usually the theory of the method and often takes 6-12 months. The second portion is teaching practice, or practicum. Practicum usually takes another 6 months to 2 years depending on the program and the trainee’s progress.
Some programs, such as Creighton and Marquette, actually require their teachers/instructors to be health professionals. Registered Nurses at a minimum.
Instructors who choose to get properly trained spend hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, on their training program. They spend years in the program and many hours and days studying. And most often, many free or cheap hours of labor with clients to complete the practicum phase.
In these training programs, teachers are taught reproductive anatomy and physiology. All about hormones. Where they are produced, how they affect the reproductive organs, how they interact, and how they drive fertility. They’re taught how to use the method themselves. And then how to teach others how to use the method in an accessible way.
And this is really one of the most important factors of training.
When a Fertility Awareness Educator is taught how to teach someone else how to chart, they’re taught how to help individuals in most any circumstance. In most programs this includes regular cycles, irregular cycles, post-hormonal birth control, postpartum and perimenopause. Many programs have different protocols depending on the circumstances. Some programs even teach instructors how to teach individuals with disabilities.
And then the practicum phase helps teachers get real-life experience in teaching individuals or couples these protocols. They work closely with program leaders to make sure they are teaching properly. This is when the majority of the learning happens. It’s one thing to know the theory, and another completely to know how to apply it and teach it.
When someone tries to teach fertility awareness without having this very specialized training, they put their clients at risk for unintended pregnancies.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours on my certifications. My goal is to provide the absolute best and most accurate care for my clients. So, to be honest, it irks me when untrained individuals hand out misinformation like candy. Or attempt to teach without this solid education behind them.
I hold my clients’ personal reproductive lives in high regard.
Making a mistake with fertility awareness can be lifechanging and I never want to downplay that. I understand the weight that my role carries. And it saddens me greatly that untrained individuals don’t also take that seriously, instead choosing to take advantage of their followers and clients.
While I was waiting for one of my certification programs to begin I completed a course to become a Fertility Doula. This was primarily focused on supporting clients through assisted reproductive therapy. But it also discussed a bit about birth control and using fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy. I was told I could teach clients how to use fertility awareness to avoid pregnancy if I just read a book on my own time.
With very little instruction on how to use fertility awareness, and no instruction on how to teach and support people, I was told I could teach it to clients. Since I’m fully aware of the risks for everyone involved in this scenario, I chose to start only with those who were trying to conceive. Until I was able to complete my other certifications that gave me that foundation I needed.
I acknowledged that simply reading a book didn’t qualify me to teach others. It wasn’t worth the risk of unintentionally miseducating others without that solid education.
I tell you this to explain that many individuals who may even have a fertility related certification can have very little education or knowledge in how to properly support and teach people fertility awareness. I have seen an astounding number of self-taught or unqualified fertility educators sharing incorrect information. Sometimes to the potential detriment of others’ fertility.
A fertility awareness instructor is…
An educated and certified person who has dedicated an abundance of time and money to supporting individuals and couples in learning how to achieve or avoid pregnancy with an evidence based method of fertility awareness.
If you want to learn how to chart your cycle to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally, I cannot recommend enough that you reach out to an instructor today!