The essure sterilisation procedure, one year on

I say one year on… it’s actually 15 months on, but it’s taken me so long to finish writing this post (as with all posts) that my original draft and actual life timeline are way out of sync.

Anyway, so: the essure procedure. The last time I wrote about it was 3 months post-procedure and I was having a bit of a head wobble about the whole thing. I’d had some heavy bleeding, which at one point put me in A&E with a suspected ectopic pregnancy, and some contact dermatitis caused by a nickel sensitivity. I spent a lot of time googling essure side effects and found some bloody terrifying scare stories.

15 months on this is all but a memory. The random heavy bleeding stopped almost as quickly as it came on (assumed “settling in” / scarring – i.e. part of the process that causes the actual sterility). I have only recently started wearing my watch again after the initial irritation from the strap occurred, but it hasn’t flared up at all. I no longer have issues with painful intercourse or discharge, and other symptoms I’d worried about – weight gain and fatigue – turned out to be mostly related to my drinking (surprise surprise).

My periods are regular as clockwork most months and, most importantly, I’ve not popped out any babies lately. Surprisingly, I’m also yet to experience any feelings of regret either. I occasionally get a bit broody when I see other people’s cute babies online, but mostly I look at how happy and comfortable I am (despite life’s stresses) with how things are, that I wouldn’t want to change anything. I will never not miss baby cuddles, but I know for a fact that I would miss sleep, and flexibility, and freedom, and time with my existing babies more.

With something like this it’s easy to get carried away with panic at the first sign of a problem — as with all things in life, people are quicker to complain when it goes wrong than compliment when it goes right — and with essure there’s no shortage of scare stories to terrify women into avoiding the procedure, but I would have no problems recommending it to anyone wanting a permanent birth control solution.

Essure procedure: 3 months on

Warning: lots of “TMI” in this post, so if you’re a wee sensitive soul you might want to skip this one.

As we approach 3 months to the day since I had the essure procedure done, I should be receiving a letter for my appointment to confirm how successful it was any day now: whether or not I can finally stop taking the pill and rely on my ‘scarred up’ tubes. In the mean time, I thought it would be a good idea to log the changes I’ve noticed since I had the procedure.

Firstly, in the days following the essure, I had significant period-style cramping and some spotting/light bleeding but this was to be expected and settled down quite quickly. In the first period following the essure I started spotting a few days earlier than my period would normally start (bearing in mind they’re regulated by the combined pill still at this point) and then in the first few days of actual menstruation, I would bleed incredibly heavy losing very large clumps, akin to an early miscarriage! The heavy bleeding would last for approx 3 days then stop almost suddenly as it arrived, leaving me spotting for a days or so before finishing completely.

In between periods I experience some minor cramping around the time when I would be ovulating (again, despite the combined pill) and my hormone-related mood swings would peak: anxiety back to pre-prozac levels for a few days before settling down. Then, just before the next bleed, pre-prozac levels of anger and impatience. At this point if it weren’t for the mood stability in between these peaks, I’d be worrying that I’d undone the benefit of starting the prozac for my PMDD!

As well as changes to my periods, I’m now experiencing nickel sensitivities (the coils they insert into your tubes are made with nickel) and can no longer wear my Garmin day to day because of a red, itchy patch of contact dermatitis on my left wrist from the buckle. This is a common complaint after the essure but the official website only states that its a risk if you have existing sensitivities. I’d been wearing my watch for approx 1 year prior to this with no problems.

I also have other new “symptoms” which I cannot pinpoint to the procedure specifically, but are recorded by other women post-essure: joint pain, itching, fatigue, weight gain despite working out at least 4 days a week, painful intercourse, vaginal discharge.

This week I’m battling throbbing / pulsating pain radiating from the location of my right ovary and lower back pain similar to early period cramping as well as excess tiredness and hot flushes. However, I was assaulted in the early hours of Saturday AM (don’t worry, I’m fine) and may have been hit in the lower abdomen. I’m hoping that the pain will go on its own and that the insert on that side hasn’t shifted.

Day to day, I am mostly OK and don’t (yet?) regret having the procedure. I’m trying to bear in mind that I’m still in the early days and my body is likely still producing scar tissue around the implanted coils. We’ll see how it goes from here…

No more babies

Back in February I asked my GP for referral for a sterilisation. I saw the consultant last Monday to confirm that I fully understood what was involved in the process and the fact that it was a permanent, non-reversible contraception etc etc. I was offered a newer, non-surgical procedure called Essure®, which basically involves inserting two small coils into the falopian tubes via the vagina, which cause scar tissue to form blocking off the tubes and preventing sperm from reaching an egg.

I agreed to the procedure, signed a consent form and was told I’d hear shortly for an appointment date. I went home expecting to be waiting for another few months. I mean, the NHS is brilliant but for elective procedures and non-urgent care it can be (rightly) slow.

Not so much… within two hours of getting home I was called by someone from the hospital to advise that a cancellation had been made, and could I make it in the following Tuesday (29th March). Holy shit batman. (Talking of which, the new Batman vs Superman? Pants.)

On Monday night, I lay in bed and had a little cry as I thought about what this procedure meant: no more growing babies in my tummy. No more breastfeeding cuddles. No more snuggling tiny humans to sleep by my side. But what reassured me about this little release was that I didn’t feel regret, or like I was having a last minute change of heart, but simply coming to terms with experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have and realising that although beautiful and life-changing and fulfilling, I am done.

No more babies.

Giving in

I went to the doctors a couple of weeks ago and got my referral for sterilisation as mentioned back in January. The doctor tried to give me non-permanent long term contraceptive options but was obviously content that I had done my research and knew what I wanted as he consented to the referral. I can only hope that it continues to be as simple a process when I see the gynae specialist (must make that appointment).

While I was at the doctors we talked again about the debilitating effect the suspected PMDD has on my life: that I am basically inable to function for 2 out of every 4 weeks. I “gave in” and accepted his recommendation of trying fluoxetine (prozac) which has been shown to be effective in several studies, e.g.:

The marked increase in the number of well-designed placebo-controlled studies in the past decade has established several selective serotonin reuptake– inhibiting antidepressants as effective first-line treatments for this disorder. Both continuous dosing and intermittent luteal dosing strategies lead to rapid improvement in symptoms and functioning.

I say “gave in”, because that’s what it feels like I am doing. Feels like I’m letting it win. Having spent a lifetime stubbornly battling my problems by myself, this feels like a step backwards. Of course it’s not giving in: it’s fighting back. It’s accepting that there are ways to combat the issues I have without driving myself crazy shouldering it alone, or making excuses for myself and my inability to cope.

I’m currently trialling intermittent luteal dosing (second half of my cycle) to see if that helps. The side effects (nausea, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping) are hard going but I feel like they’re starting to pass. I do feel quite zombie-like at the moment, literally spending hours feeling absolutely nothing, but I also have seen a marked improvement in rage responses over the past couple of days. I hope this is *it*, and not a fluke…