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The Curious Case Of The Uterine-Expanding, Digitally Disappearing Picabo Street (UPDATE)

On Sept. 25, Picabo Street was a celebrity picker on ESPN College Gameday, which was on location for the Oregon St.-Boise St. game. She was described as "visibly pregnant, prepared and enthusiastic" in the Idaho Statesman's story about ESPN coming to town. To understand why a visibly pregnant Picabo Street is odd, and why it could cost a company millions in future revenues, we have to go back to 2002.

Nov. 4, 2002, to be exact. That was the day the Food and Drug Administration approved the patent of granted marketing approval for the Essure system by a company called Conceptus Inc. It was a revolutionary system for permanent female contraception that was deemed safer, more cost-effective, and quicker than laparoscopic bilateral tubal ligation—having one's tubes tied, in my parents' parlance—which involves severing and cauterizing and a whole host of other fun things that don't sound like fun for the inside of genitalia. Instead of surgery on one's fallopian tubes, one could merely block the passages.


The procedure grew in popularity—helped in part by more and more mentions in local and national media. It even became a procedure undergone by celebrities. Celebrities like skier Picabo Street .

In a January 2010 interview with People, Street opened up about her decision to undergo the Essure procedure:

By the time I decided to have the Essure procedure I was 100% sure I was done [having children], and that I needed a solution in the permanent category. Surgery was nothing new for me, but it was really nice to find another option which happened to not be surgical. Essure is perfect in that way –- I didn't have to take time out of my schedule for the procedure or recovery. It really was a breeze.

Furthermore, she decided to go public with this news because she was

shocked to learn how few women, myself included, don't know about all options when it comes to our health.

It just seems crazy to me that the information is not more readily accessible and current, like the information posters on the back of the door in doctor's offices. Why did I have to find the information myself? I don't want everyone to have to work so hard.


A public figure speaking on behalf of women's health: we're all for it. However, now that Street is appearing "visibly pregnant" on national TV, she has been scrubbed from the Essure website, as seen by this Google cache image:


Which prominently features Ms. Street, whereas this image, taken from the Essure website, contains no mention of Street.


There are three options here: Picabo Street isn't pregnant—in which case Michael Deeds of the Idaho Statesman is incredibly insensitive; Picabo Street underwent the procedure, but falls in the .26 percent fail rate of patients; or Picabo Street didn't undergo the procedure in the first place. The last option makes no sense unless Essure and Picabo Street teamed up to hoodwink skiing fans, People magazine readers, and birth control news enthusiasts.

Conspiracy theories aside, it is very strange that Essure would remove references to Street on their website, even though the company has always hedged that the procedure was not 100 percent effective. Then again, if the company were to see a sudden drop in the procedure because a celebrity endorser was revealed to have been either a hoax or statistics of its efficacy were trumped up, the monetary ramifications for Conceptus Inc. would be very obvious.


Birth control is still a heated issue in America and no one is going to be helped if it surfaces that one of the leading companies in the field was lying to women. That aside, let's hope Picabo Street's other kids don't trot out the "You were an accident" taunts with their new brother or sister. They'll have a lot of proof to back up their claims.

UPDATE: A statement from Picabo Street and Conceptus:

Picabo Street has announced that she is expecting a baby. She had decided last year that her family was complete and opted for the Essure permanent birth control procedure. Before Picabo had the required confirmation test to ensure that she was fully protected from unplanned pregnancy, she discovered she was pregnant. While unplanned, she considers this a blessing from God.

We at Conceptus are glad that Picabo's pregnancy is going well.

We want women to know that when performed properly and all procedure protocols are followed, Essure is the most effective option for women whose families are complete. While no method of birth control is 100 percent effective, Essure is 99.8% effective.

More than 450,000 women worldwide have had the Essure procedure and rely on it for permanent birth control.

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