I don’t remember ever having a very strong maternal drive or a desire to have children. I did, however, have a very high sex drive in my early twenties. I tried many different types of birth control with varying levels of hormones, but I never found one that suited me. The hormones in the pill made me act like a basket case, the hormone patch always fell off (no matter where I put it) and the Nuvaring just felt invasive.
I didn’t want to have to deal with birth control anymore if I knew that I didn’t want to have children, so I explored more permanent options. I had a five year copper IUD inserted when I was 22 years old after being told that I would have to wait until I was 26 to be sterilized. My doctor wanted me to be sure that I was making the right choice and that I wouldn’t regret it if, and when, I found the man of my dreams and he wanted to build a family. Turns out at 26, I still felt the same way and decided to follow through with the Essure.
Even though I had lost my job I still had insurance through COBRA around this time. I was able to get the Essure without having to pay the huge price tag that was associated with it before the Affordable Care Act happened. My insurance covered the placement of the device which would have previously cost me over $3,000 — a price I was previously willing to pay but grateful that I no longer had to. It seemed like the perfect fit for me. It was non-hormonal and was put in by my doctor within about 15 minutes; No invasive surgery involved.
The way that the Essure device works is that two small coils that resemble the spring in a clicky pen are inserted into each of the fallopian tubes. Your body’s natural defenses then form scar tissue around the devices and create a barrier to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. It has a rate of 99 percent efficiency, but once in place it cannot be reversed. It sounded to me just like getting my tubes tied but without having to have surgery.
My doctor gave me medication that softened my cervix and a heavy painkiller for the procedure. It didn’t feel any more intrusive than my annual exam, except that it took a little while longer. I was told that I would experience possible mild side effects like cramping, spotting, headaches, and nausea while my body adjusted to the device. To my memory, I didn’t have anything too severe happen until about three years after my procedure.
When I got my device put in, there had been minimal human trials and testing done by the manufacturer, Bayer. Bayer is being sued by thousands of women that have suffered from adverse effects of the Essure device. Some have become pregnant, had their uterine or stomach lining perforated by the device and, as a result, have had full hysterectomies, causing them to go through premature menopause. The youngest girl that has had a full hysterectomy thanks to Essure that I’ve seen on the Essure Problems Facebook Group was 21 years old. That Facebook group has nearly 34,000 members and continues to grow everyday.
My symptoms slowly crept up on me until I realized one day what a mess that I had become: My joints hurt constantly. As an outdoorsy girl, at first I attributed it to the fact that I was running too much or rock climbing too often, but my rest breaks lasted longer and the joint pain only got worse. I saw a doctor that told me that it was caused by inflammation and he put me on a food elimination diet to see if it would reduce the inflammation in my body. That, in addition to the high doses of ibuprofen, didn’t help. I would wake up in the morning feeling like an 80 year old woman. I had to stop running and take up swimming to help relieve the arthritic feeling I had in every joint of my body.
I started having mood swings and crying at the drop of a dime. I had frequent headaches and I started getting terrible cramps when I had PMS that were worse than any time I had experienced in the past. I started to develop a strange bulge in my lower abdomen that wouldn’t go away with any amount of exercise or diet. I thought it was all due to getting older, I was about to turn 30 years old and I thought that it was normal to start feeling my body breakdown and for it to be harder to lose weight. However, this wasn’t normal. Things just got worse and worse.
My aunt found an article about women having issues with the device and sent it to me. As I read through it, I was totally taken back by what some women had endured as a result of this device. I made an appointment at my gynecologist for the following week. When I told my gyno that I wanted to have the device removed, she told me she had performed surgery to remove the devices on three other women just that year. She had successfully removed sections of the fallopian tubes and left the ovaries and uterus intact. An ultrasound showed that would likely be the case for me as well but she told me she couldn’t be positive until the surgery.
There is not another comparable moment of fear as I had the day of my surgery. I signed a consent form to allow them to do a full hysterectomy if the device had migrated, and my doctor deemed it necessary. I went under sedation not knowing if I would still have my reproductive organs that would prevent me from going into menopause at the age of 29. I was very lucky to wake up and find that the devices were removed with very little intrusion or complications. My fallopian tubes were gone, but I could expect to have a normal menstrual cycle and to reach menopause at a natural age.
Two weeks following surgery, I had a check up appointment with my doctor. I was so happy to be able to say that every single one of the symptoms I had experienced had disappeared. I was back to running seven to eight miles on the weekends with zero knee pain before, during or after. All of the milder things, like my headaches and mood swings haven’t come back in the year and half since surgery. After we went through my doctor’s physical checklist during my checkup, I had a very important question to ask her: Was her office still offering the Essure device as a birth control method to her patients? My jaw hit the ground when she confirmed that they do still offer Essure as an option.
She believes it is her patient’s choice and that all she can do is her best to educate them on her experience with the device. What she didn’t mention was the large amount of funding that the hospital where her office is located receives from Bayer. I immediately went home, looked up the closest law firm that was taking on Essure claims and signed up to join the fight against Bayer. I hated to think about the women that didn’t have adequate access to education and health professionals that lived in rural or impoverished areas that might make the wrong choice. According to this infographic from the University of Reno, 80 percent of rural communities do not have access to gynecologists like mine that have had experience with, or have even heard about, this device.
As a young female, I trusted my male doctor when he offered me the Essure as a solution. My case is not unique, and I am joining the fight of thousands of other women that were affected by the device. Taking Essure off the market would eliminate the risk of causing harm to other women that are attempting to make responsible choices regarding sex and reproduction. If you are currently going through the process of removal, know that you are not alone in this. If you know anyone considering getting the Essure device, please show them this article; it might change their life the way that my aunt did for me.
Photo is pixabay public domain
Guest Author Bio
W.M. Chandler is a Colorado native and works best with her head in the clouds. She is an avid researcher and enjoys writing about unfamiliar subjects. She writes passionately about nature and the outdoors, human connections and relationships, nutrition and politics.
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