Question 108


Why Dr. Mary Martin, M.D, Refuses to Prescribe Contraceptives (Part I of II) 
By Eileen Dugan, Sooner Catholic 

MIDWEST CITY- At least one Catholic doctor believes that the reason American society is obsessed with the contraceptive pill is because it has been brainwashed by big pharmaceutical companies. These companies have been successful in pushing their agenda into America’s medical schools. Doctors now prescribe the pill not only to prevent pregnancy but also to treat many gynecological problems. Unfortunately, the pill treats only the symptoms, not the underlying conditions, this natural planning doctor contends.

There are fewer than 50 natural family planning doctors in North America. The state of Oklahoma has two. One is in Tulsa; the other, Dr. Mary Martin, has been practicing in the Oklahoma City area since January 2004.  

Before coming to Oklahoma, Martin practiced obstetrics, gynecology, infertility, and Natural Family Planning (NFP) outreach in Hammond, Indiana, at Saint Margaret Mary Health Care.           

A job with Renaissance Physicians of Midwest City brought her here from Indiana. All Renaissance Physicians, including Martin, are Board Certified or board eligible.

The Renaissance Physicians were looking for someone to fill a niche for a more natural approach to fertility, gynecology, and childbirth, Martin said. She answered their call.           

Martin has not always been a supporter of NFP. Although a cradle Catholic, in 1995 when she started her practice in Warrenton, Virginia, she routinely prescribed contraceptives. In 1999, that suddenly changed as she underwent a conversion experience. She said a Catholic priest in the Confessional made it her penance to research whether contraceptive agents could cause abortions. Martin said she was shocked to find out that, yes, contraceptives do have the potential to do just that. She immediately stopped prescribing contraceptive agents for any reason.

Contraceptives Do Not Suppress Ovulation Reliably           

As part of her research, Martin observed first hand, via ultrasound, that contraceptive agents do not suppress ovulation, reliably. “The failure rate of the pill is roughly 10 percent,” Martin said. She cites the Trussel study from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth.

When a woman, who is on birth control pills becomes pregnant, “the contraceptive makers always blame the woman and say she has not been careful enough in taking the medicines, but the data is clear,” Martin said. “I observed still developing follicles, (egg cells) and ovulation in women on the pill, as witnessed by ultrasound.”           

The contraceptive companies say that ovulation does not occur. And perhaps that was the case when the amount of hormones in contraceptives was much higher. But the amount of hormones in birth control pills has steadily decreased, and the new low-dose formulations certainly do not always suppress ovulation, Martin said.            

“Most troublesome is what it says on the package of contraceptives. It states that the endometrium [the lining of the uterus] is thinned by hormones in the contraceptives to prevent the implantation of a baby. [In other words, if ovulation does occur and results in pregnancy, the baby will be prevented from surviving.]

In my mind, this is the same as an early chemical abortion. If that only happened one time in my career, I wouldn’t want to be responsible,” Martin said.

Most Infertile Couples Are Never Properly Diagnosed           

Martin said she is also concerned about couples with infertility problems. “Most infertile couples are never properly diagnosed. They are simply told their best chance of having a baby is in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is not only prohibitively expensive, very invasive, and not covered by most insurances, but it is also morally suspect,” she said. 

Because of her Catholic faith teaching, Martin does not believe that physicians should insert themselves into the creative act. She believes that is exactly “what doctors do when they separate the marital act from fertilization by IVF and other assisted reproductive technology (ART). I respect the marital act. I’m not going to intrude on that,” she said.            

Typically, the doctor involved with in vitro fertilization asks the husband to collect a sperm sample, and then, the doctor retrieves the woman’s eggs through artificial means. The egg and sperm are combined in a test tube or Petri dish. The resulting embryos are graded and frozen or simply thrown away. “How are the husband and wife co-creators with God in this?” Martin asks. “It’s completely a laboratory procedure.”           

Unlike other obstetricians and gynecologists in the U.S., Martin uses the research of several doctors in Australia to help her treat infertility and other gynecologic disorders. One of these methods is the Billings Ovulation Method. 

Billings’ Ovulation Method           

“Brown’s Ovarian Monitor” was developed by Professor James Brown of Melbourne, Australia. He is an Australian PhD., bioengineer who has done foundational work in human reproduction,” Martin said. “He developed bioassays, which are a way to measure the hormones in the blood stream and urine.”           

Brown was associated with two other Australian physicians, Doctors Lyn and John Billings, a husband-and-wife team, also from Melbourne. A priest, Father Maurice Catarinich, had asked the couple if there were a scientific way to determine when a woman is fertile. The Calendar-Rhythm method of NFP was unreliable, and Father Catarinich hoped that a more dependable, natural method could be developed.

The Billingses had discovered in the early 1960s that changes in cervical/vaginal mucus indicated when ovulation had occurred, ovulation being the time in a woman’s cycle when she is most fertile. Dr. Brown, soon thereafter, developed bioassays. In the past 50-plus years, over one million of these hormone assays, or tests, have proven that, as the Billingses had discovered, changes in cervical mucus correlate exactly with ovulation.

In the 1960s, the Billingses and Dr. Brown joined with Dr. Erik Odelblad, M.D., PhD., who Martin said was considered the world’s foremost expert on the cervix and cervical mucus. His work tested what the Billingses had suspected and Brown had proved: it is the pattern of change in the mucus symptom that indicates that ovulation has taken place. Doctors can now use these findings to help parents plan families and aid women with infertility problems, without using IVF or artificial contraception,” Martin said. 

“Both Brown and Odelblad had been on pharmaceutical teams that developed the contraceptive pill,” Martin said. “Neither are Catholics, but both saw the potential for misuse of the birth control pill; Now, in their mid 80s, both are still actively researching. The Billingses, who are Catholics, put their lives into the science on which modern NFP is based,” Martin said.

Martin corresponds regularly with both Brown and Odelblad. These scientists do not publish in the United States; they prefer European journals, such as British Medical Journal and Lancet.

Odelblad, a Swede, prefers Acta Scandanavia, a Swedish journal.

Both Brown and Odelblad have collaborated with the World Health Organization throughout their careers, Martin sa