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New Timeless Birth Control Method Being Studied


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Currently, most permanent contraception for women is done through surgery -- a tubal ligation. It's commonly known as having one's "tubes tied" in a procedure that requires a small incision and general anesthesia. But the new STOP procedure -- selective tubal occlusion procedure -- may be able to offer the same benefit at much less physical cost.

The device itself is a tiny springlike coil, which is placed in the opening between the fallopian tubes and uterus. The procedure is done through the cervix so that no incision is needed. Lead researcher, Jay Cooper, MD, says the fallopian device is one-size-fits-all. It then adapts to the available space and the body grows tissue around it creating a permanent block.

Although this may vaguely sound like a method of contraception out of the 1970s, this device is completely different from the intrauterine device, or IUD, says Cooper, founder of the Women's Health Research Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

"In some sense, you're talking apples and oranges. The [IUD] is a temporary method of contraception. It's a rather large piece of plastic, and it resides in the [uterus]. So it often causes side effects -- cramps, excessive bleeding. There are a fair number of women who can't tolerate an IUD." Cooper adds that the earliest incarnations of those devices were also associated with a high number of infections.

That has not been the case so far with the STOP method now being tested. Cooper says that one year after having the device implanted, almost 100% of the women he's dealt with rate their experience good to excellent.

Moreover, there's apparently a rather large market for such a device. Cooper says about 800,000 women a year choose sterilization through surgery. While that procedure is generally safe, Cooper says it, like every surgery, carries risks. The new device does the same thing as surgery -- but it can be performed in the doctor's office without anesthesia and in just a few minutes' time.

"Just yesterday I spoke with a doctor who did the procedure in three minutes. Normally it takes seven or eight," Cooper tells WebMD. The manufacturer, Conceptus Inc., claims most women should be able to recover within a day.

Kirsten Moore, MS, of the Reproductive Health Technology Project in Washington, D.C., has been following the research. "Given [the fact that] sterilization is the most widely used contraceptive method in the U.S., improvements in options and technology make good sense to me," says Moore.

As for the availability of STOP? "It's impossible for the device to be on the market for the next 12 months," Cooper says, because data from the latest tests won't be available until early 2002. After that, it must be reviewed by the FDA.

 

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