Women For Many Years

Birth control options have been available to women for many years. More recently, innovative forms have emerged, allowing women to get anything from an injection to a patch in order to prevent pregnancy. While none of these choices are permanent solutions, women have always had the option to "get their tubes tied." That procedure, known as tubal ligation, has many positive sides, but requires abdominal surgery, general anesthesia and several days of recovery.

Essure for 'easy'

"People often thought men had the better option because vasectomies were considered 'easier' than tubal ligations," says Leland Cheng, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist with Park Nicollet. But thanks to the introduction of EssureR procedures about five years ago, women have an easier option for permanent birth control.

"Essure uses a new technology to block women's fallopian tubes without requiring abdominal incisions or general anesthesia," Dr. Cheng explains. "It is a major advancement for women's reproductive health." Unlike other birth control options, such as pills, patches and some intrauterine devices, Essure does not involve hormones that can affect women's natural menstrual cycles or cause uncomfortable side effects, such as nausea.

How it works

Using a thin, lighted tube known as a hysteroscope, the doctor inserts a small, spring-like coil into a woman's fallopian tubes. "The hysteroscope reaches the tubes through the body's natural pathways - the vagina, cervix and uterus," Dr. Cheng says. Women receive a local anesthetic and an oral sedative. The entire procedure takes less than an hour.

"Patients can expect some menstrual-like cramping, and medication helps offset that," Dr. Cheng adds. "They can return to their normal activities the very next day - no restrictions."

In the ensuing weeks, tissue grows into the spring-like coils to permanently block the fallopian tubes. During the first three months after the procedures, women should use another form of birth control, preferably a hormonal method, such as birth control pills or an injection. Three months after the procedure, doctors perform an X-ray dye study to make sure the tubes are fully blocked.

"In roughly 97 percent of patients in which both implants are successfully placed, the tubes will be fully blocked after three months," Dr. Cheng says. However, as a precaution, the three percent of women who fail the dye study should be retested at the six-month mark, at which point all are fully blocked.

A permanent procedure

Based on four years of follow-up, Essure is 99.8 percent effective. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and is the only birth control method with zero pregnancies in clinical studies. "I do my best to counsel patients about the permanence of Essure; it is not reversible," Dr. Cheng adds. "Before performing an Essure procedure, I want women to be 110 percent sure they do not want to become pregnant."