Woman reacts to birth control coil
Possible allergy to nickel may be the reason for debilitating side effects
Jodie Tilton and her youngest daughter, Kearyn, 7, outside of their home in Bennington. Tilton says she's suffering from side effects of the Essure Coil birth control. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
Even as the youngest of six children, Kearyn, 7, knows to get Mom, Jodie Tilton of Bennington, a wet cloth and a cold drink when she is about to have a black out. Tilton struggles with health complications because of the Essure coil, a type of permanent sterilization for women. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
BENNINGTON — In 2006, a Bennington woman had a simple procedure done as a form of permanent sterilization. Although this procedure can be done by an obstetrician without anesthesia and is quite common, one woman believes she is part of the 2 percent who experience negative side effects from the Essure coil.
Jodie Tilton, 43, wanted a permanent birth control, without a full hysterectomy, because she was told that a hysterectomy would make her go through early menopause. She said her obstetrician recommended the Essure coil, which is a tiny spring-like coil made of nickel that is inserted into both fallopian tubes. According to Dr. Pam Stetzer, an obstetrician at Monadnock Community Hospital, scar tissue will form around the coil, fully closing the fallopian tubes so that no eggs can travel down from the ovary.
On April 17, 2006, Tilton said she had the Essure coil implanted. She had the coil inserted into her single fallopian tube, and she only felt some cramping afterwards. But the side effects quickly worsened. She says she’s suffered from rashes, memory loss, frequent and unbearable periods and blackouts. She felt like no one could help her.
“I felt like I was crazy, no one knew what was wrong,” Tilton said. But late one night earlier this month, Tilton saw an ad on TV that made her feel much less alone with her pain.
“The advertisement described all the symptoms I was feeling and directed me to a website,” Tilton said. “For the first time, I felt like someone understands me.”
She went online to a Facebook page called Essure problems, and there thousands of women were commenting about the exact same symptoms as she had. “It’s up to 4,021 members now when I last checked,” Tilton said Monday. The site also links members to ongoing petitions to get the Essure coil off the market.
This nation-wide concern is also being investigated by consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, who is accepting stories and signatures for a petition from women who have experienced Essure coil problems, according to her website. The petition had 5,519 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Tilton said among the 4,000 plus women involved with the Facebook page many of the health issues are believed to be related to a nickel allergy. Tilton said another portion of the women say that after having the coil for several years, the coil moved or cannot be found when X-rays have been taken.
Like other women on the Facebook page, Tilton said she got a rash on both of her feet with lots of red spots. Soon after the procedure, she also started feeling like she was in a mental fog and was having a hard time remembering things. She also began experiencing severe vertigo and even random blackouts. “I would hear a loud ringing in my ears, and I knew I only had about 30 seconds to a minute to lay down.”
Within the last couple of weeks, she experienced another blackout. Because of these symptoms, she is unable to work, or even be alone with her kids. She also has had to stop driving. “I feel like a little kid again,” Tilton said about losing her independence.
She believes her symptoms are due to the coil being made out of nickel. Before having the coil procedure, Tilton said she was never informed by her obstetrician that the coil was made of nickel and was never asked if she was allergic to nickel. She said she’s only ever been able to wear gold earrings, because nickel makes her ears flare up. She said she didn’t bring this up to her doctor because she had no idea what the coil was made of.
If a woman is unsure if she’s allergic to nickel and plans to get the coil, Tilton said she would tell them, “Get a nickel allergy test done.”
Stetzer said she asks every patient if they are allergic to nickel before planning the procedure. Since she began doing the procedure in 2005, none of her patients have had bad reactions to the nickel, she said. Stetzer said Monadnock Community Hospital does not have an allergist to test patients, so it’s up to Stetzer to inform her patients about the coil and for them to know if they are allergic to nickel or not, and possibly get tested.
Initially doctors believed the coil was functioning correctly with Tilton’s body, since the coil seemed to be working. “I had to go back [to the hospital] in three months to have an [Hysterosalpingography] to make sure I could no longer get pregnant,” Tilton said. “It looked like the coil was working and in place.”
She went to a number of specialists who didn’t think her symptoms were from the coil. Doctors told her that only 2 percent of women experience negative side effects with the coil, and after several emergency room trips and ongoing severe abdominal pain doctors still didn’t think her issues were from the coil. “It’s so hard too because no one believes you. No one believes that this is constant. You just push through.”
Her goal now is to find an obstetrician who will perform the surgery to have the coil removed. “I can barely scrape two pennies together, and my doctor said it would cost over $900.”
Tilton worries she will go into menopause early because this operation will require removing her only fallopian tube, and according to her doctor, he will also need to remove her ovary. “You never know what it’s like until you’re in there,” Stetzer said, referring to surgery.
Stetzer said she has performed the coil implant procedure on many women, and if she personally wanted permanent sterilization, this is the method she would choose. Stetzer said this procedure is the quickest for recovery, and it’s simple for the surgeon.
Tilton’s doctor told her the same thing. After the ordeal she’s been through and knowing what she knows now, Tilton said she would never recommend the coil. “If anybody asks, don’t get it. It’s not worth being the 2 percent. It will take away your life.”
Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org.