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sterilization New, no-cut birth-control method is catching on
With new procedure, female sterilization gets easier

Date published: 7/17/2005

MERICAN women spend an average of 30 years trying to avoid pregnancy.

Remarkably, they turn to sterilization for themselves--or their partners--more often than any other birth control method.

Usually, it's the woman getting sterilized. Women have their tubes tied in tubal ligations almost twice as often as men get vasectomies, according to federal health statistics. About 700,000 women opt for the surgery each year.

But a new, less invasive option of permanent birth control is slowly catching on, and it has the potential to make the emotionally loaded, historically painful process much easier.

Hysteroscopic sterilization, marketed under the brand name Essure and granted Food and Drug Administration approval in 2002, offers the same permanent birth control as a tubal ligation or a vasectomy.

Yet unlike those procedures, it involves no incision, and the recovery time is generally far shorter than with a tubal ligation.

"I had so many different experiences with contraception that had not been positive, [and] then I had this," said California nurse-midwife Gaby Avina, who underwent the Essure procedure in 2001 as part of a clinical trial. "To be honest with you, I think it's the only option for women, especially busy women with children."

The procedure can be done in a doctor's office, ambulatory surgery center or hospital, either under a local anesthetic or light sedation. Recovery time is generally one to two days, with most women able to go back to their regular routine within 24 hours. By contrast, doctors advise women who've had a tubal ligation to take it easy for two to three days and to avoid heavy lifting for two weeks.

Dr. George Banuelos has performed more than 100 Essure procedures and calls it "the safest procedure for women right now for sterilization." He predicts Essure will far outpace tubal ligation within the next 10 to 20 years.

"This is probably the biggest advancement in female surgery in the last 25 years," said Banuelos, who is vice chair of Chicago's Good Samaritan Hospital. "In time, it will become the standard."

Blocking the tubes

Even though new techniques have made vasectomies and tubal ligations less invasive than in the past--some doctors offer versions that involve very small incisions--a procedure with no incision is what draws many to Essure.

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For more information

Information on birth control and sterilization options is available from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at acog.org, and from the Food and Drug Administration at fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/brthcon .html. To learn more about Essure or to locate a physician who offers the procedure, visit essure.com or call 877/377-8731.