Choosing to be sterilised is a tough decision for a lot of women. And with over 13,000 women undergoing the permanent procedure in the UK, recent news that a certain method may lose you your uterus is pretty worrying.
A number of women have complained about the Essure implant after being told they now need hysterectomies.
The Essure implant is a sterilisation device used on the NHS. The small coil implants – made up of nickel and polyester fibres – stop eggs from reaching the womb.
They are inserted into the fallopian tubes, kickstarting an inflammatory response that causes scar tissue to build up and eventually block the tubes.
Several women have spoken to the BBC about the method known as hysteroscopic sterilisation, describing how they have been left feeling “suicidal” due to intense pain from the coil.
“The device was sold to me as a simple and easy procedure. I was told that I’d be in and out of the doctor’s office in 10 minutes and that there’d be no recovery time,” said Laura Linkson who was fitted with the Essure implant in 2013.
“I went from being a mum who was doing everything with her children, to a mum that was stuck in bed unable to move without pain, at some points being suicidal.”
Other women have reacted badly to the nickel and plastic composition while some have found that the device has perforated the fallopian tube and fallen out, embedding elsewhere in the body.
The only way to remove the implant is to remove the fallopian tubes and often the uterus itself.
The manufacturer, Bayer, has assured women that Essure’s benefits outweigh the risks. However, the sale of implants in the EU has now been temporarily suspended after a number of complaints.
In 2015, a study suggested that women undergoing hysteroscopic sterilisation were ten times more likely to need follow-up surgery than those who went for a traditional procedure.
The clinical trial that led to the implant being approved has also been criticised for only following women for up to a year, rather than considering the long-term impact.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) has been criticised by prominent members of the medical community for failing to act on this evidence.
“How much evidence do you need to say let’s withdraw this from the market?” said Carl Heneghan from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University.
Although Bayer has advised hospitals not to use the device at this moment in time, some gynaecologists believe the implant is still perfectly safe.
“I think it has a place for women who can’t have keyhole surgery and who are explained the risks very carefully,” Ben Peyton-Jones told the BBC. “When used correctly, according to the manufacturer’s guidance and in trained hands, it is safe.”
“Patient safety and appropriate use of Essure are the greatest priorities for Bayer, and the company fully stands behind Essure as an appropriate choice for women who desire permanent contraception,” said the manufacturer in a statement.
“Many women with Essure rely on this form of contraception without any side effects.”
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