Australian doctors groups have defended the use of long-acting contraceptives, saying Implanon and Mirena are safe and effective in preventing pregnancy.
A 7:30 investigation highlighted some women suffered severe side-effects from long-acting contraceptives, and that some doctors and nurses had received payments from the makers of the devices for participating in educational events and on advisory boards.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists spokesperson Associate Professor Kirsten Black said major complications from the devices affect fewer than one in 1,000 women.
“Large patient trials have demonstrated that the devices are very safe and effective at preventing pregnancy,” she said.
“When women are followed up for a year after starting one of these methods, the majority are happy with their choice and continue to use it.”
Some of the patients the ABC spoke to had suffered months of continuous bleeding and pain after using the devices, and said their doctors had been reluctant to remove them.
Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon said long-acting contraceptives were a “success story”.
“For many women, they provide not only contraception but prevention of anaemia, treatment of endometriosis and prevention of uterine cancers,” he said.
“They are part of the story that we have seen a three-fold reduction in hysterectomy rates in the past generation.”
Patient outcomes vary
Most of the women who contacted the ABC in the wake of the investigation told of side-effects from using the two long-acting contraceptives.
But Ms Black said most side-effects from the devices were minor.
More than 945,000 Implanon devices have been used by Australian women over the past decade, with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) receiving more than 1,000 reports from treating doctors and specialists of side-effects and other problems.
These include more than 500 unintended pregnancies, more than 50 vaginal haemorrhages and 27 ectopic pregnancies.
Of more than 967,000 Mirena devices implanted in Australian women in the past decade, health authorities received over 850 reports of adverse effects.
This included 70 pregnancies and more than 100 uterus perforations.
GP groups, including the Royal Australian College of GPs, said if women have any concerns about contraception choices, they should discuss it with their GP.