For women who want to permanently prevent pregnancy, but don’t want to undergo the surgical knife, the Essure implant can sound like a dream. The spring-like implant, which is manufactured by Bayer, claims to be the only non-surgical permanent birth control. Only many women feel doctors have failed to prep them on just how severe the side effects might be, like pain, migraines and bleeding. The complications are forcing some to get the Essure implant removed. And here’s the real kicker — some women have had so many complications with this implant that they’ve wound up having to get their uterus and fallopian tubes removed to get rid of the implant.
Health Canada is currently investigating the safety of Essure following thousands of complaints in North America. This follows the US Food and Drug Administration’s call for black box warnings on the product following thousands of complaints. They say the product’s box should warn patients about “adverse events, including perforation of the uterus and/or Fallopian tubes, intra-abdominal or pelvic device migration, persistent pain, and allergy or hypersensitivity reactions” and inform them that “reported events resulted in device removal that required abdominal surgery.”
Many of the women getting hysterectomies are young mothers in their 20s. “I had joint pain. I had bleeding. I bled the whole entire time, the whole time the product was in me,” Marlee Scott, a 26-year-old Ontario woman told CTV News. Scott underwent a hysterectomy to remove Essure. The mother of four says she was attracted to Essure precisely because it sounded like a non-invasive alternative.
Scott is not alone. She and about 130 other women with similar experiences launched a class action lawsuit against Bayer. A similar fight is taking place in the United States, where the Facebook group Essure Problems has around 30,000 members, all complaining of complications with the implant.
So how is Essure supposed to work? Doctors implant the spring-like metal coil into the fallopian tubes to prevent sperm from entering and reaching the wearer’s eggs. Only women have reported a startlingly wide range of unexpected, serious side effects.
“The device has caused, in a large number of women, severe pain, pain when they have sexual relations, but pain even without sexual relations, bloating and the device migrates. It moves, it’s defective,” Tony Merchant, whose law group launched the lawsuit against Essure, explained to Global News.
Erin Brokovich created a website for women with the Essure implant to help them share their stories as well. One woman named Sarah complains of “abdominal pain, infections, constant bleeding and developing Endometriosis,” a condition she says she never had prior to getting the implant. “I am regretting my choice,” she stresses. Another woman named Susan complains of “constant diarrhea, nausea, headaches” and a sharp pain in her uterus. And the complaints go on and on, as several women say they’ve had to endure complications related to what they’d hoped would be a “safe,” “natural” procedure as advertised.
Some women even complain of neurological complications. For instance, Sharilyn Ervin told a panel of representatives from the FDA and Bayer Pharmaceuticals in 2015 about her experiences “falling over completely paralyzed” as much as 20 times each day. She said she had to stop driving and her 12-year-old became her caregiver, changing her diapers. Unsurprisingly, this dramatically affected her mental health: “I was captive in my own body,” she laments.
As 750,000 women in North America got the Essure implant, triggering thousands of complaints, we can only expect more women to keep coming forward, bravely sharing their stories. Canadians can expect to see the results of Health Canada’s investigation into complaints at the end of May.
Brokovich points out that women’s reproductive rights need to be protected: “It is a woman’s right to decide for herself if she wants a certain form of birth control, but when they are NOT told of the devastating side effects, well that isn’t right.”