Asking all the wrong questions

Essure implant - picture by Bayer via Associated PressPhoto credit: Bayer via Associated Press

Recently, the Washington Post released a heartbreaking article featuring an in-depth exploration of Bayer’s controversial, permanent contraceptive device Essure. It’s essentially a thin metal coil — about the length of a sewing needle — filled with fibers intended to stimulate the growth of scar tissue. When implanted in the fallopian tubes, the tissue growth around the foreign object blocks the pathway of sperm to egg, preventing pregnancy. It’s intended to be a non-surgical, minimally-intrusive alternative to tubal ligation (a procedure more common called “getting your tubes tied”).

Theoretically, it sounds effective and even, in the words of one couple interviewed in the article, “more natural” than the alternatives. In practice, however, the results aren’t necessarily pretty.

Thousands of women have stepped forward, bravely facing one of the world’s largest and most powerful pharmaceutical companies, demanding justice for the unbelievable suffering they have undergone at the mercy of a tiny coil.

A startling number of patients have experienced sudden and intense bleeding and cramping during irregular times of the menstrual cycle; autoimmune malfunction including abrupt and severe tooth decay, significant hair loss, joint pain, rashes and fatigue; punctured fallopian tubes from the sharp coil; and of course, unintended pregnancy. The effects of Essure are irreversible and extraction is difficult, often necessitating the complete removal of the patient’s uterus.

Many articles — including this one from the Washington Post — do well to raise awareness of the dangers posed by Essure and lend a much-needed platform to the victims. All of these articles ask the same questions: Why wasn’t more thorough research required before approval of Essure? Why is it still on the market while the product is back under scrutiny? Why are doctors implanting the device in patients known to have allergies to one of its metal components?

But these questions miss the point.

The entire existence of Essure and similar devices depend on the same dangerous mentality:  Fertility is a disease to be cured.

Certain IUDs, Implanton, Depo Provera, the patch, the pill and similar products release hormones that trick the body into believing it’s pregnant. This is quite a shift from normal medicine, which works by providing chemicals that either fix a malfunctioning system or eliminate a foreign threat. Hormonal contraceptives are literally the only devices in the medical world that try to stop body parts from functioning exactly the way they’re supposed to. And the body parts in question? Female reproductive organs.

Fertility is truly one of the miracles of science, and the ability to carry human life is a uniquely feminine capacity. Since when is miraculous femininity a disorder? Since when is system shutdown the appropriate response to managing a healthy function of the body?

The medical world — and our society at large — is in desperate need of a paradigm shift. We need to understand that fertility is a blessing, and managing it means working with it, not frustrating it or shutting it down.

The beauty of NFP is that it accepts our bodies just as they are. It uses the gift of science — incredibly detailed, time-tested science — to take advantage of the natural infertility within the menstrual cycle to avoid pregnancy, and yet provide an avenue to achieve pregnancy when that’s the goal. Foreign implants are risky, sometimes irreversible, and grounded in a flawed, harmful philosophy. They’re bound to backfire. Fertility awareness embraces the entire human person because it assumes that the whole human body — yes, even complicated fertility — is wonderful and deserves utmost respect.

Looking for a healthy, organic, effective alternative to hormonal contraceptives? Click here to check out CCL’s trusted NFP method.

— Forest Hempen
Marking & Communications Associate