Alternatives to Vaginal Mesh

The controversial vaginal mesh operation should be banned from treating organ prolapse – so says the health watchdog NICE.

The organisation is advising the implants should only be used for research - and not routine operations.

It’s estimated that one in 11 women have problems with the mesh.

A campaign Sling The Mesh, led by journalist Kath Samson highlighted the problems experienced by women who have had the mesh operation. In many cases, the mesh came lose and cut into the vagina.

This causes:

  • Ongoing pain
  • Inability to walk
  • Pain during sex

In some cases, the symptoms have been so severe, women have been left unable to work.

Mesh causes excruciating pain

Kath Samson comments: “The pain in my legs and feet was so intense, along with burning pains in my vagina - like being cut with a cheese wire - that I knew something was terribly wrong.”

Samson had opted for the mesh after childbirth had left her with stress incontinence.

The plastic meshes fitted are made of a material called polypropylene. Polypropylene is used in the manufacture of plastic bottles.  

What is surgical mesh used for?

Mesh is used in the vagina, uterus, bowel, bladder or urethra after prolapse.

The University of Oxford's Prof Carl Heneghan, has branded the use of mesh a "catastrophe".

The NICE documents research "randomised controlled trial data showed no added benefit of using mesh compared with native tissue repair".

NHS statistics show that in the last eight years, over 92,000 women had vaginal mesh implants in England.

What are the alternatives to the vaginal mesh operation?

Talk to your gynaecologist about the alternatives. Here are a selection of them.

Kegel exercising. Learning Kegel exercises can be very effective.  Talk to your GP about the best kind for you, but most exercises involve pulling in your pelvic floor for three seconds and then relaxing. You should do at least 24 contractions a day for at least six weeks.

MonaLisa Touch Laser.  This is a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, which applies laser energy to the vaginal walls. This stimulates the production of new collagen and rehydrates and tightens the vaginal wall. Research has shown improvements of 90% in vaginal laxity, and 72% in pain during sex, after 3 sessions of MonaLisa Touch®. It can improve incontinence in suitable patients by significantly improving tissue tone and elasticity in the walls of the vagina.

Oestrogen creams. There is evidence to suggest that topical oestrogen creams may improve continence in women. Oestrogen, in the form of a cream or insert can firm up vaginal walls.

Vaginal ring. A vaginal ring pessary that keeps the vaginal walls in place. Ring pessaries may be an option if a prolapse is more severe, but you would prefer not to have surgery. They will need to be replaced every four months.

Vaginal cone. Another medical device, constructed in a similar way to a tampon, with a string attached. This keeps the pelvic floor muscles engaged as the will keep the cone from falling out, thus strengthening the vaginal walls.

See a gynaecologist for problems with vaginal laxity

Finding a gynaecologist who has experience in dealing with menopausal problems should be a priority.

Urinary incontinence, along with vaginal dryness are often referred to by  the umbrella term, Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM). This syndrome also includes lack of lubrication and discomfort during sex and frequent urinary infections

The organ that stores urine. Full medical glossary
A common name for the large and/or small intestines. Full medical glossary
An organ with the ability to make and secrete certain fluids. Full medical glossary
intermittent claudication Full medical glossary
The involuntary passage of urine or faeces. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that control urine flow. Full medical glossary
How relaxed or slack a body part is. Full medical glossary
Relating to the menopause, the time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle. Full medical glossary

The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods cease

Full medical glossary
Tissue made up of cells that can contract to bring about movement. Full medical glossary
A hormone involved in female sexual development, produced by the ovaries. Full medical glossary
Relating to the pelvis. Full medical glossary
The muscles of the perineum surrounding the vaginal opening and acting as a sling supporting the uterus, bladder and rectum. Full medical glossary
A craving to eat non-food substances such as earth or coal. Full medical glossary
A growth on the surface of a mucous membrane (a surface that secretes mucus, lining any body cavity that opens to the outside of the body). Full medical glossary
Displacement of part of the body below its normal site. Full medical glossary
A study comparing the outcomes between one or more different treatments for a disease (or in some instances, preventive measures against that disease) and no active treatment at all (the placebo group). Study participants are allocated to the various groups on a random basis. May be abbreviated to RCT. Full medical glossary
A medical device used to support the uterus, vagina, bladder or rectum. A pessary is most often used to treat prolapse of the uterus and stress urinary incontinence. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
A group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. Full medical glossary
The tube that carries urine from the bladder, and in men also carries semen during ejaculation. Full medical glossary
The womb, where embryo implantation occurs and the growing foetus is nourished. Full medical glossary
The muscula passage, forming part of the femal reproductive system, between the cervix and the external genitalia. Full medical glossary