Dr. Mary Martin consults with Dr. James Brown during a WOOMB conference in Melbourne, Australia.
Q. When did you first learn about the Billings Ovulation Method® and what was your next step?
I believe I was first exposed to the Billings Ovulation Method in July of 1999. My 18-year civil marriage had ended in 1998. I sought out the advice of faithful priest, Fr. Jack Riley, who reassured me that I could not go back to the nonsacramental marriage as it was. I was long overdue for confession (it had been 13 years) and he said, "by the way, you're not prescribing contraceptives or performing sterilizations, are you?" Fr. Riley made it my penance to research whether oral contraceptives were potentially abortifacients. I already knew that they were, but lacked the courage and grace to act on the conviction until I attended several conferences which were designed to convince doctors like me that it was possible not to prescribe. Of course, the first physician I met was not an obstetrician, so I argued with him publicly at such an event and remained skeptical until I attended a Billings teacher training in St. Cloud, MN taught by Australian senior teachers Marian Corkill and Gillian Barker. As Marian and Gillian presented, light bulbs went off continuously, and I took advantage of the materials and resources available, including traveling to Melbourne, Australia. Traveling there for the next world Billings conference allowed me to meet Drs. John and Evelyn Billings themselves and Professor Jim Brown.
Q. How did learning Billings impact your medical practice as a gynecologist?
Significantly, I had stopped prescribing contraception and performing sterilizations on March 1, 1999, but lacked a practical, simple method to recommend to patients as a substitute for contraception and sterilization. I was relying only on my residency training, which, while good, was comprised of "see and treat," without any attempt to determine the underlying problem which had created the symptoms. I've often said that learning the Billings Method made me a gynecologist. Soon, instead of being the radical feminist challenging poor Dr. Chris Kahlenborn at conferences (I subsequently apologized), I was the persistent questioner of reproductive endocrinologists in my own specialty, the guys who wrote the textbooks. It dawned on me, when I was told that my questions and methods were "archaic exercises in academic rigor," that perhaps grace was playing a larger role than any intelligence that I may have contributed.
Q. Over the years, you met some of the great pioneers such as Drs. John and Lyn Billings, Dr. James Brown, and Dr. Erik Odeblad. Tell us a bit about those experiences and a couple of the things you will never forget.
I brought home Professor Jim Brown's Ovarian Monitor from my first Melbourne experience and relied on his personal guidance to perform the testing in my practice over the course of two years. I was fortunate to spend time alone with him on each of several visits to Australia. The time simply flew by as we excitedly queried each other and, bless his heart, Professor Brown always made it seem as if he were also learning something from me. On the last visit, he sat front row at my lecture, and subsequently, at our prescribed private meeting, said that he wished he had 20 more years to live, as he was sure that Pilar Vigil and I were really "on to something" with the role of insulin resistance and its effect on ovulation. Sadly, he predicted at that meeting, we were not likely to meet again on this sphere, given his advancing age. I am so grateful that he was the mentor who influenced me most.
I had contacted Erik Odeblad by fax or telephone, as I recall, and subsequently flew to Chicago to accompany him to the University of Illinois, where I had studied medicine. He planned to meet fellow Nobel nominee and recipient, Paul Lauterbur, PhD chemist. While both Odeblad and Lauterbur were nominated for their use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Professor Lauterbur had applied MRI widely in the field of medicine, while Erik had used the technique to study the structure and function of cervical mucus. Never was there more contrast between the two! While Erik was polite and extremely modest, Lauterbur, and his physician wife, whom I remembered had given the most boring, inane nutrition lectures in my first year of medical school, were pompous, obnoxious atheists. I had just heard of Professor Odeblad's difficulties with the Swedish Board of Medicine while on our drive from Chicago to Champaign-Urbana. His religious views against abortion and later contraception prevented him from practicing in Sweden as an obstetrician-gynecologist. Fortunately, for all of us, Dr. Odeblad brought his wife and family to California to earn his PhD at Stanford University. We flew on to Dallas, where Erik gave a detailed lecture on intracellular transport of manganese and the properties of cervical mucus. Professor Odeblad entrusted me to edit a scientific paper in English and rewarded me with contributing authorship.
Q. You have also become a friend and colleague of Dr. Pilar Vigil of Santiago, Chile, who will be our final presenter in our upcoming Medical Professionals Seminar webinar series in May. Tell us about how her protocols for helping women with fertility problems are different than what physicians in the United States use.
Pilar and I met in Melbourne and, having both been mentored by Brown and Odeblad, had much in common. Pilar is also an obstetrician-gynecologist, but earned a PhD in human reproduction, continued her studies in the US at the Texas Institute of Reproductive Medicine with Emil Steinberger, MD, and continues research as well as clinical practice. As founder of the Reproductive Health Research Institute, Professor Vigil and colleagues have consistently published in peer-review journals and have compiled protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of the underlying endocrine problems which lead to gynecologic problems, infertility, and recurrent pregnancy loss.
Q. We hear that NaProTechology physicians use surgery to treat problems that you would not use surgery for. Please explain your approach and how it is different.
Professor Vigil is extensively published on the subject of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is caused by hyperandrogenism (excessive male hormones). NaProTechnology endorses surgical treatment of polycystic ovaries, which was abandoned by my specialty more than 30 years ago. Removing part of the ovary, as NaProTechnology recommends, in ovarian wedge resection, temporarily reduces androgen levels, but markedly reduces ovarian reserve and fails to correct the underlying endocrine reasons for hyperandrogenism. My specialty is still promulgating insulin resistance as the cause of PCOS. Whereas Professor Vigil has conclusively shown that insulin resistance is a feature of some, but not all PCOS, and that other endocrine causes, including hyperprolactinemia, hypercortisolemia, and acquired congenital adrenal hyperplasia are other causes.
Q. If a Billings teacher has a woman who needs a medical consultation, but is not able to travel to you, what is the process and fees for setting up a remote consultation with you? Is it helpful if they are charting using nfpcharting.com so you can see their chart?
Charts alone are rarely diagnostic, but the BIP and the lack of Peak are diagnostic clues. A combination of patient history, physical exam, laboratory values, and ultrasound are required for diagnosis. For those who are unable to travel to the office, telemedicine consults, nfpcharting.com, and labs can usually provide a diagnosis. As I have recently joined a primary care practice, and telemedicine is being rolled out on a new platform, telemedicine consults are on hold at the moment. I’ve had three infertility patients who I’ve worked with remotely conceive in the past 6 weeks. The protocols work.
Q. If you could meet with med students in their early phase of their education, what would you tell them?
Read and listen critically. Good training will instruct you on how to judge studies for bias. Remember that we are all products of our environments. Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions. Instead of just accepting the standard treatment of oral contraceptives to treat gynecologic problems, how about if we address the underlying cause and treat it?
Q. Finally, how do people contact you for consultations through your medical practice, Axis Healthcare?
The practice phone number is (918) 825-3777. I don't yet know the cost of the consultations. Axis Healthcare bills insurance.
Q. We appreciate that you’ve been an excellent resource. We are also grateful that you are one of our long time, faithful monthly donors. What can we do to spread the word more effectively to your fellow physicians?
The science of the BOM sells itself. Keep up the good work in exposing physicians to the science!
BOMA-USA provides education and training for The Billings Ovulation Method® which is a natural method of fertility management that teaches you to recognize the body's natural signs of fertility.