One Year On, Women With Vaginal Mesh Are Still Being Ignored

One year on from the damming report on vaginal mesh and “the only thing the government has achieved is a half-hearted apology from Matt Hancock”.

That’s according to the campaigners still fighting for better health outcomes for women who’ve had vaginal mesh surgery.

A vaginal mesh implant, sometimes referred to as a “sling implant”, is a controversial treatment previously given to women who experienced pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence, particularly after childbirth.

It was once common in the UK, with more than 92,000 women given a vaginal mesh implant between April 2007 and March 2015 in England alone. But the treatment was “paused” in 2018 amid concerns about the operations – and a review ordered.

HuffPost UK has been reporting on the scandal since 2017, interviewing women who’ve described life-changing complications, including being unable to walk, work, or have sex after surgery. Multiple women have described mesh as feeling “like razor blades”, while one woman told us “it ripped condoms”.

Vaginal mesh was previously a common treatment given to women experiencing incontinence after childbirth. 

The official review, overseen by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, confirmed everything these women and others have been saying for years.

“We met so many women with limited mobility having to rely on a wheelchair or crutches to move around, unable to sit for periods at a time, unable to play with their children or carry their grandchildren,” it said.

“The effects of these procedures have caused fractured relationships for some and placed some women and their families in dire financial straits. In short, the system does not know the true long-term complication rate for pelvic mesh procedures.”

The review set out nine major recommendations to bring much-needed help to those who have suffered, including the creation of “specialist centres,” so that women could have their mesh removed or receive further treatment. These centres opened in April, but women have reported difficulties accessing appointments, or travelling to clinics far away from their homes.

A year on, campaigners say not much has changed for victims of vaginal mesh, with some in the medical profession still pushing for the treatment to be reintroduced. On Thursday, politicians will meet to debate the issue again.

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