Fertility Charting for Health for Young Women

By Anne Marie Williams.  Adapted from the original Family Foundations article. 

Brian and Johanna’s Story

While the average NFP or FABM user is a woman who, with her husband, is actively seeking to avoid or achieve pregnancy, one Ohio couple is capitalizing on the relevance of fertility awareness-based methods of natural family planning beyond pregnancy intentions, and throughout the entire female reproductive lifespan. Dr. Brian Burke and his wife Johanna took a CCL NFP class during their marriage prep, with fellow engaged students in university. Charting confirmed Johanna’s previous observations of cycle irregularities during several years of loosely tracking, and the couple was referred to Dr. Jack Burnham, who taught NFP through CCL with his wife, and was experienced in addressing hormonal abnormalities in his medical practice.

Dr. Burnham’s cooperative approach of working with Johanna’s body to normalize her hormones through nutritional supplementation made “a dramatic difference” within just three cycles. In fact, the Burkes credit Dr. Burnham’s intervention with helping prevent a hormone deficiency- related miscarriage of their first child, who was conceived during the first fertile cycle of their marriage. Johanna commented that successfully utilizing the biological knowledge gained through charting “really sparked something different in us than just the moral side of why we wanted this information.” Brian, who planned to attend medical school, knew that he “wanted this information for his patients in the future” and Johanna marveled at the “dramatic lifestyle improvement when we weren’t even looking at family planning.”

Brian shared that “the fertility signs that God has given us are reflective of a woman’s overall health. It’s not just about avoiding pregnancy, and it’s not even just about getting pregnant and treating infertility. It’s all about recognizing that changes in those fertility signs are reflective of other things going on with a woman’s health that, if she is tracking those things, I as a family physician can identify, diagnose, and treat.” What’s more, Johanna observed, reproductive symptoms can point to health issues in other body systems.

The Burkes went on to become certified NFP instructors with CCL during the first year of their marriage, and they taught charting classes in Ohio, and then in North Carolina and in Guam after Brian graduated medical school and joined the Navy. “But along our journey,” Brain noted, “we saw that there was a subset of people that were getting left out of the mix.” While they saw fertility awareness being successfully used by couples for family planning, and mother/daughter fertility awareness programs gaining traction, the Burkes recognized that little outreach was occurring to single women seeking to get a handle on PMS, abnormal bleeding, and other cycle irregularities.

Recognizing that need, and after returning in 2019 to Steubenville, the Burkes “started giving talks locally, and crafting presentations for the college students with some basic instructions on charting, using a lot of the NFP material. While many young women have been told that period pain, abnormal bleeding, and debilitating PMS are all normal and unavoidable, and are offered birth control as a band-aid solution, the Burkes educate women on seeking treatment for the underlying causes of those reproductive symptoms. Johanna said, “We see it as our mission to make fertility awareness something that is not just for family planning,” but, as Brian teaches medical residents, “as part of a bigger picture of true, comprehensive
women’s health.”

Brian said, “We reach out to young adult women in that single category to help them begin to understand the overall role of fertility and charting in health, so that they can have a better understanding of the dignity of the body and how their fertility is really reflective of their overall health status.”

Inspired by couples like Brian and Johanna, Fertility Science Institute now offers coaching sessions for single women and young women looking for charting advice and guidance. Check out our coaching page for more information.