WARNING – GRAPHIC CONTENT: A mum who claims her uterus was pierced by her contraceptive implant has slammed the device for allegedly ruining her life – and even claims it may have given her breast cancer.
After looking for a reliable method of permanent birth control, Julie Watts, 50, decided to have the controversial sterilisation device Essure implanted into her fallopian tubes back in 2009.
The mum-of-one claims since the procedure, her life has become a “living hell” – with the device making her feel “poisoned” every day due to debilitating side effects such as severe haemorrhaging, chronic pelvic and back pain, excruciating cramps, fatigue, depression and anxiety – none of which she experienced before.
The Essure implant is a permanent contraceptive device comprised of a metal nickel coil which is inserted into the fallopian tubes in order to generate scar tissue, which blocks sperm from reaching the egg.
The project manager from Canberra now even believes the implant could be to blame for her devastating breast cancer diagnosis in 2011, which resulted in her undergoing a mastectomy on her left breast.
On October 24 Ms Watts’ fears were confirmed after she claims medics told her the implant had migrated from her fallopian tubes and pierced through both sides of her uterus – something her doctor said he had never seen before.
“I wanted a permanent birth control solution, and the Essure implant sounded perfect to me at the time, as the recovery period was far shorter than a tubal ligation,” Ms Watts said.
“I kept asking whether it was safe, but my doctor at the time assured me it was FDA and TGA approved.
“I had faith that everything would be fine, otherwise why would they use it.”
‘My jaw dropped to the floor’
It was not until watching the 2018 documentary ‘The Bleeding Edge’ – which explores the hazardous implications of the Essure contraceptive implant – that Ms Watts said she realised the device could be to blame for her near decade-long health battle.
“I totally forgot I even had it until a month ago, when I saw this documentary that details all the horrific side effects of Essure,” she said.
“I recognised the name straight away, and my jaw dropped to the floor.
“I went to my gynaecologist with this new information. He performed a laparoscopy and discovered that the device had actually migrated from my tubes into my uterus and was piercing both sides of the uterus from the inside.
“We were both horrified. He explained that my uterus would have been trying to expel the toxic implant by contracting, which explains my cramps.”
Ms Watts said she was lucky the issue was discovered before it perforated her bowel.
“That could have been disastrous,” she said.
“Looking back, it explains so many things. I’d always been healthy as a horse, but after getting the Essure implant, my health rapidly declined.
“I felt sick all the time and it was like I had been poisoned. I couldn’t understand it.
“Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It didn’t make sense to me, because nobody on either side of my family had ever had it. There was absolutely no history and my genes tested negative for the breast cancer gene.
“Then I discovered that there are PET fibres in the implant that cause inflammation in the body and raise oestrogen levels. My breast cancer was oestrogen-positive, meaning high levels likely caused it.
“Although no doctors can confirm it, I look at the timeline and my lack of family history and I can see a link.”
‘The implant destroyed my health and my marriage’
Ms Watts alleges that the debilitating health problems caused by the Essure implant caused her to fall behind at work and ultimately damaged her career – and also claims it was the catalyst for the breakdown of her marriage.
But since having the device removed last week after undergoing a total hysterectomy, Ms Watts said she feels “healthier and more alive” than she has in over a decade – and is looking forward to a brighter future.
“The Essure implant has stolen my career, it destroyed my health and my marriage and ruined my life,” she said.
“I felt so hopeless and had no joy. I was fatigued all the time and was just always sick.
“But I felt a difference straight away after it was removed from my body. I feel like a new woman. I’m rejuvenated and have my mojo back.
“This never should have happened with a device that was given to women everywhere under the pretence that is safe and won’t do any harm.”
Gynaecologist ‘concerned’ about contraceptive device
Ms Watts’ gynecologist Dr Stephen Robson said he had never seen a contraceptive device pierce through the uterus before and added that he has increasing concerns about the long-term effects of the Essure implant.
“When I was training as a specialist back in the 1990s in Adelaide, I worked with the inventor of the Essure device, Professor John Kerin,” Dr Robson said.
“I was his assistant when he was developing the devices. However, I never really used them because of concerns that I had.
“I placed a few sets of Essures back in the very early 2000s but have not used them since.
“I have to say that now I have increasing concerns about longer-term adverse effects of the devices, including pain.
“As we saw with transvaginal mesh, there is no central register of women who have had Essure devices, so it is very hard to provide an exact estimate of the number of women who might have had a long-term adverse outcome.
“I now have seen a number of women with possible adverse outcomes, so I certainly believe more detailed research needs to be undertaken as a priority.”
Onslaught of Australian women complaining about device
The Essure implant has come under fire in recent months after law firm Slater and Gordon announced a proposed class action against the device’s manufacturer Bayer in August – which would follow similar lawsuits in the US, Canada and Scotland.
Slater and Gordon have claimed the action comes following an onslaught of complaints from hundreds of Australian women who claim to have experienced adverse side effects from the implant.
“At Bayer we take our social and corporate responsibilities very seriously and we make the health and wellbeing of our patients, and the integrity of all of our products, an absolute priority,” a Bayer spokesperson said.
“Patient safety is of the utmost importance to Bayer, and we are always saddened to hear of anyone experiencing an adverse event with any medical device.
“Essure was developed by Conceptus Inc. and placed on the Australian market in compliance with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) requirements.
“While it was on the market Essure was maintained and updated in accordance with all Health Authority requirements to ensure the label reflected all current safety information and that information was distributed to healthcare professionals in a timely manner.
“Essure is supported by an extensive body of research, including more than 40 published studies involving more than 200,000 patients worldwide over the past 20 years.
“Women who currently have Essure in place may continue to use the device, and Bayer will continue to support healthcare providers in their management of these patients.”