New Permanent Birth Control Method for Women is Effective and Eliminates Incisions

03/11/03    Portland, Ore.

A new permanent birth control technique is being offered at Oregon Health & Science University starting March 14. Mark Nichols, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine and member of the Center for Women's Health will be performing the procedure on four women that day.

The Essure permanent birth control method, developed by Conceptus Inc., was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2002. It has been used in Australia, Europe, Singapore and Canada for several years. It is the first alternative to invasive surgery for women seeking permanent birth control in the United States. The procedure does not require any incisions and can be performed without general anesthesia in an outpatient setting in about one hour. Tubal ligation, another form of sterilization widely used by women, requires one or two incisions and usually is performed under general anesthesia.

Nichols said that Essure is irreversible, so women should be absolutely certain they want this permanent type of contraception. "For some, that is a very attractive way to have permanent birth control. There are no hormones involved and it doesn't require using something at the time of sexual activity. It has been attractive to women as permanent birth control because it gives women control," he said.

To perform the procedure, the physician places a scope through the vagina, the cervix and into the uterus. A flexible tube is inserted through the scope into both of the fallopian tubes. Attached to the end of the tube is the micro device that is inserted into the fallopian tube. The device is about the size of a pencil lead in diameter and about two inches in length. Once in place, the tiny device uncoils and stays in the fallopian tube. It is designed to promote tissue growth, thus blocking the fallopian tube so that sperm can not reach the egg. The tissue growth is similar to that in a vasectomy. The insert is made of material similar to that used in heart vessel surgery for years. The patient usually returns home about 45 minutes after the procedure. Only minor cramping, which generally can be controlled by over-the-counter pain medications, has been reported in some cases during clinical trials. After 12 weeks the patient must return for an X-ray to ensure the insert has been effective. Until then, patients must use another form of contraception. In clinical trials Essure was found to be greater than 99.8 percent effective.

Currently tubal ligation is the most common form of contraception in the United States, with 700,000 women undergoing the surgery annually. More than 400,000 men in this country undergo vasectomies each year.