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Essure as birth control: Is it safe?

Main Line Health April 29, 2014 General Wellness

EssureFor women who have made the decision to not have children or to stop having children, the Essure procedure can be a simple, pain-free solution. The FDA-approved Essure procedure offers benefits that past options like hysterectomies and tubal ligations don’t: no skin incision or general anesthesia, a quicker recovery, and a return to normal activity within one to two days.

Essure works by creating a barrier against pregnancy. The system includes two small soft, flexible metal and fiber coils that are inserted through the vagina and placed in the fallopian tubes. Within three months of insertion, scar tissue forms around the coils and blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from being fertilized. After the three-month waiting period, an x-ray is conducted to confirm that the process is complete.

But since the procedure’s introduction, the Internet has been buzzing with news of women who have experienced unpleasant side effects like cramping and infection, and a small handful that have gotten pregnant even after the Essure procedure was complete. Feedback like this has left women wondering: Is Essure really a safe choice?

Based on these reports from women across the country complaining of pain, the FDA reviewed the data regarding Essure's success over the past five years. In October 2013, they published a a statement indicating they had found no evidence demonstrating new safety concerns or an increased incidence of the known safety concerns.

“Ninety-nine percent of women who have had the Essure procedure have found it to be not only incredibly effective, but also free of any painful side effects,” says Gregory Bolton, MD, gynecologist at Main Line HealthCare Gynecology at Lankenau Medical Center. “More than half a million women and their doctors are using and prescribing this as a permanent solution for birth control.”

Although Essure is safe for most women, Dr. Bolton admits that it’s not perfect.

“Like all forms of sterilization and birth control, Essure isn’t without the occasional side effect. Most women will experience cramps, some discharge, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and bloating in the days following but, for most women, that’s where the pain stops,” he explains.

If you continue to experience symptoms in the weeks or months following the Essure procedure, there is the opportunity for removal. But before you head to the gynecologist for a removal, make sure you know the cause. There could be underlying problems or other sources of pain. For example, women who have taken an oral contraceptive and immediately switch to Essure might notice symptoms that are related to stopping the contraceptive rather than the implantation of Essure.

Wondering if Essure is the right option for you? Talk to your gynecologist first.

“There is no one-size-fits-all method for birth control or sterilization,” says Dr. Bolton. “Make an appointment with your gynecologist to explain your needs, and they can answer any questions about which method is right for you.”