No Kidding: Are You Essure?
Is it not at least a little funny that a permanent birth control procedure has the word "sure" in it? Considering how often I'm still asked if I'm sure about having my tubes tied and not wanting to have children, you've got to suspect someone in the Essure labs had a sense of humor.
Essure, unlike a tubal ligation, is a non-surgical way to block your fallopian tubes—no stitching, scars, or anesthesia required. A catheter that passes through the vagina and into the cervix and uterus makes this out-patient procedure less invasive and arguably just as effective—not to mention cheaper. A doctor puts little inserts up into your fallopian tubes, which will eventually cause enough scar tissue to permanently block the tubes. You only have to complete one follow-up visit to make sure the procedure was successful—different from having a tubal ligation, after which you use contraceptives for another month or so and then basically hope and assume that the surgery worked. The similar nifty feature of both, though, is that while I have clamps on my fallopian tubes, I will also likely accumulate enough scar tissue that if the clasps ever fall off, it probably won't matter because the tubes will have long since been blocked.
Essure is promoted by former TV Bachelorette Trista Sutter, which I think is a fascinating departure from the way celebrity status (or some variant thereof) is used to talk about compulsory childbearing, motherhood, birth control, and sterilization. Sutter's story on the Essure website is particularly interesting because she explains that she tended to have high-risk pregnancies. Since some women who have difficulty with conception and/or pregnancy turn to options like adoption or medical procedures for permanent birth control, I think—even if it is likely sponsored by a for-profit medical products manufacturer—that it might be a more honest way to talk about how we all make these decisions based on what's best for our bodies, families, and lives.
She also addresses how important our sex lives are to all of us, and how stress about and fear of unplanned pregnancy can significantly alter your relationship with your partner. I always felt lucky that I could afford birth control pills, but the side effects that I experienced—namely, that the hormones exacerbated my already difficult lifelong struggle with migraines—eventually didn't balance out. Nothing sexy about a migraine, and there was no reason to live with that kind of pain when I could both opt out of chronic headaches and do away with any real statistical chance of becoming unintentionally pregnant.
In this clip, Sutter's doctor talks about how women who learn about Essure often want the procedure, but as always, I suspect that childfree women interested in an option like Essure will face scrutiny and resistance from medical professionals. It may not be as invasive as a tubal ligation, but it's arguably just as permanent.
I want to point out that, as I mentioned in a comment on another post, I find it tricky to discuss the specifics of sterilization costs since these things tend to vary, especially if you're lucky enough to have health insurance that might cover (partially or fully) some sort of temporary and/or permanent birth control. (I'll refrain from ranting about how covering permanent birth control options would save everyone—the insurance giants and individuals—a hell of a lot of money.) That said, I'll talk about the financial barriers to some of these things next week.
Do you think women know that non-invasive procedures like Essure are an option? Do you think childfree women have the same trouble securing any form of permanent birth control, no matter which type they want? Have you encountered resistance from medical professionals about sterilization options?
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