ITeam: Concerns over a popular form of permanent birth control

Published: Jul. 11, 2013 at 3:04 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2013 at 10:29 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - It is a form of permanent birth control. Some women love it, while some say it's ruining their lives.

It's called Essure.

Some aren't so sure they made the right choice, even Erin Brockovich is looking into the matter.

According to literature put out by the company that makes Essure, tens of thousands of women worldwide have had the procedure done.

It is considered to be more than 99 percent effective in preventing a pregnancy.

However, with anything there are pro's and con's.

One Heartland woman says she wishes she had done her homework.

Christi Gonzalez, 24, doesn't plan on having any more children.

"Three is plenty for me," said Gonzalez.

With a 6, 4, and 1-year-old, she stays pretty busy.

She considered a tubal ligation after her last child was born, but her doctor recommended Essure.

"They made it sound like it was the best thing in the world," said Gonzalez.

She had it done last year, and says three months later the symptoms began.

"I would get dizzy, seizures, bad headaches and have long periods," said Gonzalez.

Doctor Michael Jessup is an OB/GYN in Cape Girardeau.

He does between 50 and 75 Essure procedures a year in his office.

"I see all the good these devices do, and I don't have complaints about Essure," said Dr. Jessup.

During the Essure procedure, a doctor goes up through the cervix and places a spring-like insert into the fallopian tubes.

Over the next several weeks the body reacts to the coil causing it to scar over. That process then blocks sperm from reaching the eggs.

Doctor Jessup says it's much safer, and so much more convenient than your traditional tubal.

"You don't have to be put to sleep," said Dr. Jessup. "When you are having a tubal you have to be put to sleep, then there's lab work, you have to have an anesthesiologist, and it goes down the line."

He adds it saves patients a lot of money, and also time.

"They literally pull their pants up and go eat lunch, it's truly that simple," said Jessup.

Sheri Leeds of Poplar Bluff had the Essure procedure back in 2004.

"I was in the middle of a divorce," said Sheri Leeds. "My life was changing, and I didn't want any more children."

She didn't want the pain and cost that came with getting her tubes tied.

"It just seemed perfect," said Leeds.

Doctors say generally there's not much pain, just mild discomfort or cramping during or after the procedure.

"I had some cramps that day," said Leeds. "By the next day I couldn't tell I had anything done."

She would recommend Essure to anyone.

"I know everyone's different, but I can't imagine anyone having major problems with this it was just so easy for me," said Leeds.

Christi Gonzalez says her problems just continue to get worse.

"I can't wear a belt because my stomach hurts," said Gonzalez. "It hurts to work, hurts to lift, and I cry because I can't lift my daughter," said Gonzalez.

The product does contain nickel, and that is something Christi is concerned about.

Doctor Jessup says the nickel issue is pretty insignificant.

"The amount of nickel is a fraction of what you consume in a day in your diet," said Dr. Jessup.

If not the nickel, Gonzalez says it's something else because she's miserable, and says she's not alone.

"It's a big thing affecting so many women," said Gonzalez.

There is currently a Facebook page for those who have experienced problems with Essure.

There are also more than 2,600 people who have signed a petition driven by Erin Brockovich.

Some people want to see the product banned.

Gonzalez mainly wants the company that makes the product to be forced to warn others about potential risks.

"You could have these side affects, it's a possibility," said Gonzalez.

She says her doctor can't figure out what's wrong with her, and isn't ruling out the birth control as the possible culprit.

"I want it out actually," said Gonzalez.

However, she has found that there are only a couple of doctors that would remove the coils.

She says the procedure is very costly.

Gonzalez is now worried a hysterectomy is in her future because of the excessive bleeding she continues to experience.

Doctor Jessup fears the cries of a few could mean the end of a product that has helped countless women.

"It's sad, and very disheartening," said Dr. Jessup.

Gonzalez hopes someone listens.

"There are 2,500 women with the same symptoms, and it can't all be in our heads," said Gonzalez.

Essure is now owned by Bayer. Heartland News reached out to the company that owns the rights to Essure.

In an email, a representative responded with the following statement.

"Thank you for reaching out to Bayer for comment. With our recent acquisition of Conceptus and its non-surgical permanent birth control method, Essure®, Bayer will now be able to offer an even broader range of short-term, long-term and permanent contraceptive choices for women," said Rosemarie Yancosek- Head, U.S. External Communications. When asked specifically about the complaints, Yancosek said, "We have nothing more to add."

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