Having a fecund female body can sometimes feel like you're living inside of a landmine that could, without warning, explode into pregnancy if it touched by an errant sperm. And pregnancy's great if you're into it; lord knows none of us would exist without pregnancy. But if you're done having a family — or don't want one at all — long-term birth control like Essure is a way to enjoy a satisfying sex life without filling up your abortion punch card. Which is why horror stories like the ones circulating about Essure's awful side effects are especially upsetting.
For the uninitiated, Essure is a small metal coil that's inserted into a woman's Fallopian tubes. The body, miraculous pain in the ass that it is, responds by building scar tissue around the coils. The tissue blocks sperm from traveling where it needs to go in order to fertilize the woman's eggs, thus preventing pregnancy. But it does a lot of other things, too.
According to NBC (and my Google News homepage for the last few weeks, since I have a customized "Birth Control" section like a normal person), "hundreds" of women are reporting that Essure is "ravaging their bodies." The side effects sound terrible.
Some women described "bleeding every day" and developing a "spiderweb" of scar tissue. Another said, "I felt my insides were on fire."
[Essure patient Nicole] Yadon said she noticed she began "having some gynecological issues."
Those issues continued for Yadon and were compounded with health problems she would never have thought had anything to do with her Essure procedure. According to Yadon, her leg began to swell.
"It was horrific," she recalled. "It was to the point I couldn't walk."
Others had to have hysterectomies to get the coils out. Aaaaand... my entire inner pelvic region just winced.
Some of the problems may stem from the fact that doctors aren't required to test patients for a nickel allergy before inserting the device, which contains nickel. Doctors quoted by NBC seem to think that the product was rushed to market.
This isn't the first time Essure's come under fire. In 2010, Olympic skier Picabo Street's pregnancy proved an embarrassment to its manufacturer, as she'd publicly raved about how she'd had Essure coils installed months before she found herself with child. Picaboops.
Here's the part where you take the latest round of Essure complaints with a grain of salt. Only 900 women have complained to the FDA, which represents less than 1% of the total number of Essure users (750K, according to the company that makes the product). And no birth control is without side effects that affect users' quality of life enough to warrant switching methods; I had to stop using one form because it was making me act like a crazy person and another because it gave me The Eternal Semi Period. I once knew a woman who had her IUD removed because she started going bald, another had hers fall out. A friend who uses The Shot used to have to sequester herself for a couple of days after her quarterly dosage because the hormone levels basically turned her soul into a werewolf. Get a group of sexually active hetero women together, give them the conversational prompt "bad birth control experiences: GO!" and they'll swap stories at least until the appetizers arrive, like the part of the pharmaceutical ad where the cool, hip doctor lady explains to her statement necklace-wearing gal pals that of course, every type of birth control comes with risks.
But that doesn't mean that it's okay for big pharmaceutical companies to rush products to market with incomplete instructions for doctors on how to best administer them to patients. And I doubt an Essure patient who had to have her uterus removed as a result of her procedure would be soothed by a shrug and a "well, it happens!"