Olympic medalist Picabo Street was all smiles when she talked with Parenting magazine about working for NBC as a correspondent for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. “I can’t decide if I’m going to bring (the baby). I’m still breastfeeding him, but it’d be difficult because he just wants to crawl and reach and grab right now.”
Shortly after giving birth to her second child, Picabo spoke candidly to Parenting magazine about choosing the non-surgical permanent birth control method Essure. The device, made by Conceptus and later bought by Bayer, consists of two nickel alloy coils that are implanted into each of the fallopian tubes. Over time, they build up scar tissue that creates a permanent barrier preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg. To Picabo, the procedure appeared favorable to tubal ligation.
“There is no recuperating,” she said. “You go right to the doctor’s office and it takes about the same time as an annual exam. You can see the insert in the ultra sound. It was really efficient, I was back making oatmeal at 11 in the morning. It’s so simple it sounds too good to be true.”
Perhaps it was too good. Just a few months after that interview, the silver medalist skier appeared as a picker on ESPN College Gameday “visibly pregnant.” She gave birth to her third biological child shortly thereafter. Following Picabo’s announcement, Conceptus pulled all references to Picabo from their website.
Essure claims to be highly effective, though women are left with the burden of returning to the doctor months after the procedure to confirm the presence of a scar tissue barrier in the fallopian tubes. Unintended pregnancies, however, are just one Essure side effect that has emerged through the years.
Essure has been linked to allergic reactions, autoimmune responses, abdominal pain and unusual bleeding. The coils can also migrate from the fallopian tubes where they are placed and puncture and damage organs and tissue. Removal often requires surgical procedures such as a hysterectomy. It has also been linked to unintended pregnancies, fetal deaths, stillbirths and miscarriages.
In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed a black box warning on Essure to alert women and their doctors that the device may cause potentially serious complications. Last month, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow citizens claiming they were harmed by certain medical devices the opportunity to sue the manufacturer. Ariel Grace’s law is named in memory of the stillborn baby of a woman who became pregnant while on Essure.