For women all over the world, the promises of innovative contraception option, Essure seemed like a dream come true.
A simple metal and fibre coil, small in size, that could be easily installed by a doctor in just 15 minutes and promised 99.8 percent protection against pregnancy.
However, in reality this revolutionary contraceptive ended up more like a nightmare. Hundreds of women who had it implanted have found themselves unexpectedly pregnant and having to deal with the consequences of an abortion or the raising of a child that wasn’t planned. Others have suffered intense pain from side effects that have left them needing sudden invasive surgery and even hysterectomies.
It’s available both in Australia and the United States, but although it’s currently at the centre of controversy and review in America, nothing at all is being done about this questionable contraceptive here at home. With more than 750,000 women estimated to be using the birth control around the world, which is billed by Bayer, the company that produces it, as a permanent contraceptive solution, there’s quite a bit to worry about.
Now, consumer activist Erin Brockovich has thrown her own name and energy behind the campaign, demanding that Bayer pull the contraceptive off the shelves and increasing awareness about the potential side effects by sharing the stories of the women involved.
“How many women have to be harmed before we stop?” Brockovich said on Seven’s Sunday Night. “If 20,000 men’s penises were falling off, the world would stop.”
Despite the strong criticism, Bayer stands behind the contraceptive’s ‘benefit-risk profile’ and claims that it investigates all instances where issues have resulted from the use of the drug. However, for many women planning on using Essure, they simply aren’t aware of what they could be getting into. Since the drug entered the market, the list of issues has been getting longer and more worrying. The coils have found to have migrated to different parts of the body, perforate reproductive tissues, break on removal, and cause intense haemorrhaging. Some women have even died from these injuries.
Take for example an NSW mum, who, while she had Essure implanted, fell pregnant three times, resulting in two terminations and one live birth — her daughter Rya. She later found out that the coils weren’t sitting right, and were pushing right up against her fallopian tubes. Without any other options, she had a hysterectomy.
“The pain is excruciating,” she told Sunday Night. “I would definitely tell women to run away if they hear the word ‘Essure’, you know, for your own peace of mind, for your health. Run away.”
The amazing thing is Nina isn’t alone. In America, where the contraceptive is available to a wider pool of women, a Facebook group called Essure Problems, started by another Essure patient, Angie Fermalino has almost 24,000 members. Women are able to share their stories and get support from others on their journey back to better health.
“There’s too many voices, there’s too many women harmed,” said Erin Brockovich. We agree.
It doesn’t seem like too much to ask that a contraceptive will do what it’s advertised: stop you from getting pregnant. This is especially true if its advertised rate of effectiveness is 99.8%, almost perfect, with just a small margin for error. But the sheer number of women who have fallen pregnant, and the many more who are suffering from the unexplained side effects of the device are far more than a margin. All these women want is to have their stories recognised, and to have Essure pulled from the shelves and declared dangerous, ineffective and not appropriate for use.