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Transvaginal Mesh Tests Marriage

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Tucson, AZTwo years ago Ann’s urologist told her that she would have no transvaginal mesh complications after having a TVT sling implanted for urinary incontinence. “Getting this transvaginal sling was the worst decision of my life,” she says.

Ann (not her real name) was 36 years old and mother of two when the mesh was implanted. “I was having a little incontinence after my kids were born,” says Ann. “And I am asthmatic -- every time I coughed, which was frequently, I had a some leakage so it was really embarrassing.

"I had the surgery and my husband and I were told to refrain from intercourse for at least 6-8 weeks. We tried after a few months. He could feel the mesh but I couldn’t feel anything. Of course this has really affected our relationship.”

Ann discussed the mesh problems with her urologist but she said it would simply take time to heal. But two years is a long time to wait. Since that time Ann and her family moved and she talked to other doctors. Her next step is to see a gynecologist but she is currently on state health insurance and doesn’t know if that will be covered. As well, Ann works 40 hours a week, along with looking after her kids.

“I’ve also had a lot of bladder infections since getting the transvaginal mesh,” Ann adds. “I have had four infections in the past year and I feel like I cannot empty my bladder--I have to sit forward and backward, up and down, stand and sit again while I am on the toilet. It is really frustrating--it usually takes about five minutes to urinate. Especially in the morning, I will have to pee about three or four times during the first hour after waking up. The TVT sling cleared up my incontinence problem but this is much worse--I would have rather dealt with incontinence than this."

Ann’s friend is considering getting transvaginal mesh and Ann warned her against it. “She is now going to find an alternative solution -- unlike me. I was told that I had no other choice. I trusted my doctor, especially advice coming from a specialist.

"And then I saw an ad on TV a few months ago about transvaginal mesh problems and I went online -- I just cried. I’m mad and upset and mostly depressed. I made the worst decision of my life. I just count my blessings that I have kids because my urologist told me that I couldn’t have kids once the mesh was implanted. So I had my tubes tied.

"My partner and I are OK in our relationship but we haven’t had intercourse for at least three months. We’ve tried gels and stimulants, anything to help but nothing seems to be working. And we can’t afford a sex therapist. My husband wants me to go back to the doctor and possibly have the mesh removed but we are also worried about the side effects of another surgery.

"My friend happens to be a doctor in the office where I work. She said the mesh might not have been put in properly or the problems could be the coming from the mesh itself. She has heard horror stories about this mesh and dissuades her patients from getting it -- I wish I had talked to her before I listened to my urologist.

"I have to call my insurance company and see if I am covered. If not I have to start saving. I will never go back to the urologist--why did she say it was fine? I didn’t know any side effects until after the fact. I’m scared of being told that they won’t cover it. And I am scared about trying to get it taken out. I am afraid that part of my body has grown around it and it can’t be removed.

"Our relationship isn’t just based on sex so I believe he will stand by me through this--a true test of love.
My advice to women suffering from incontinence: find some other way, there has to be an alternative than TVM."

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READER COMMENTS

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Patients don't know enough about the possible side effects of surgeries and medications. They listen to their doctors who present options, and some sound pretty good. But patients don't often do their homework before they let a doctor slice and dice them. I haven't had surgery lately, but it is my guess this patient signed a form that she had to read first, outlining all the possible side effects she could experience. This is done to cover the doctor's liability and prevent lawsuits (good luck with that). No doctor, no matter how good, can predict all the possible outcomes from surgeries. My opinion is that if I had a minor degree of incontinence when I cough, I would buy and wear something to catch the drips. There are exercises for this specific problem, to strengthen the muscles down there. Her problem is common after having children, and the doctor should have given her exercises or medication to help control incontinence first. Surgery is always a last choice due to this kind of complication. But patients need to stop blaming doctors for their own poor choices, and doctors need to stop recommending surgery if another course of therapy with less risk will help.

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