We’ve known for a while that the birth-control implant Essure is responsible for causing severe side effects and health problems for women including sterilization, extreme sweating, bleeding, blood clots and chronic pain. This past week, this information was affirmed by an investigative report from the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC). According to the CBC, “as of October, about 500 Canadian women claiming issues with Essure have registered with a class-action lawsuit that’s waiting certification expected next year.”
Essure is a 2-centimeter coil that is designed to be placed in a woman’s fallopian tubes and cause scar tissue to form around the coil, thereby blocking sperm from meeting the egg.
Sadly, women have experienced severe birth-control side effects from Essure since it was released sixteen years ago. As we reported earlier this year, Bayer announced that Essure would be pulled from the U.S. market at the end of 2018. This news came following the release of the Netflix documentary, The Bleeding Edge, which shared the testimonies of women who had been negatively affected by the coil. Also earlier this year, the FDA made it a requirement that doctors provide a 22-page informed-consent brochure to be discussed and signed with patients before administering Essure.
The distributors of Essure, Bayer, claimed that their decision to withdraw the device from the market had nothing to do with the birth-control side effects or the documentary and was due to declining sales. Bayer has stuck to this story, despite increased public testimonies from women whose lives and health have been permanently altered by the sterilization device. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe considering Essure has left more than 28,000 women with chronic pelvic pain or headaches, led to full or partial hysterectomies and is responsible for at least 10 deaths due to the device perforating the uterus or fallopian tubes.
An International Problem
In Canada, Essure was recommended to over 100,000 women, who were reassured that it was less invasive than the traditional sterilization method of “having one’s tubes tied.” The CBC investigation found that Health Canada, which is responsible for medical regulations, was not transparent about Essure’s history and the reported problems with the device. Further, it has been proven that the initial testing and approval of the device was based on inconclusive and incomplete information.
After the start of the CBC’s investigation, the Canadian health minister announced that the country would increase measures to strengthen the oversight of medical devices, however, it has taken a grassroots movement of women connecting over social media to fully expose this problem and demand accountability. According to data from the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, approximately one million women worldwide have had Essure implanted.
While the damage done by this device to women’s health and safety is appalling, it also goes to show that as women, we are the best advocates for our own health. Just because a medical device has been declared safe by the FDA, Health Canada, or even a personal physician or gynecologist, does not mean it is what is best for our bodies and our health. Many of these women had their symptoms shrugged off, and it has taken far too long for Essure to be cited as the cause.
Even if the stories of the women affected by Essure start to sound like a broken record, it is important that we continue to tell each and every story. Bayer and other authorities responsible for the regulation of medical devices need to be hit with the full impact that this tiny coil has had on women worldwide so that we protect future women from birth control methods that do damage to their health and waste years of their lives seeking justice.
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