What is vaginal mesh and what is it used for?

The use of vaginal mesh is controversial to say the least… (Picture: BBC)

Vaginal mesh, which has led to debilitating complications in many of those who have had it implanted, is the subject of new official guidelines that have not impressed campaigners against its use.

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Owen Smith, a Labour MP and the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group concerning surgical mesh has said: ‘I am deeply disappointed that the updated guidelines appear to disregard mesh-injured women’s experiences by stating that there is no long-term evidence of adverse effects.

‘Thousands of women have faced life-changing injuries following mesh surgery and they must not be ignored.’

In an article for last year, Yvette Greenway, founder of the Mashed Up By Mesh campaign described vaginal mesh as ‘barbaric’.

Indeed, vaginal mesh has been linked to painful and life-changing side-effects, and even deaths in some of those who have had mesh implanted.

So what exactly is vaginal mesh, why has it caused so many terrible health problems for people?

Vaginal mesh explained

Vaginal mesh is a plastic implant which is used to treat incontinence, and to support the vagina, bowel, uterus, bladder or urethra if they have been damaged during childbirth.

Pieces of mesh like this one have been linked to deaths and debilitating pain (Picture: BBC)

While many of those who have had the implant procedure haven’t reported any side-effects, there have been a great deal of those who report life-changing, and in some cases, life-threatening complications.

As Greenway described it: ‘Mesh has a very nasty characteristic: it can become brittle and erode, and its sharp, exposed edges can quickly slice through nearby organs.’

Women all over the world have been left unable to walk due to the mesh in their body.

Some have reported nerve damage, organ erosion and others, like mum-of-two Cat Lee, have reported an an inability to have sex.

Cat and her son Charlie on the day he was born (Picture: Collect/PA Real Life)

There have also been those, like anti-mesh campaigner Chrissy Brajcic, who died from complications which were triggered by her own mesh implant. In Crajcic’s case, it was sepsis.

According to new official guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), surgery to implant vaginal mesh should now only be used as a last resort – with potential patients having to opt-in after being told of all the risks.

NICE recognises the ‘public concern about mesh procedures’, and has also said that patients should only be offered the procedure as an option if all other non-surgical methods have either failed or been rejected.

However, many campaigners are not impressed with these new guidelines.

Kath Sansom, who works with campaign group Sling the Mesh, is quoted in the Guardian saying: ‘We are appalled that despite political campaigns and the obvious suffering of many women, these guidelines are no different from what was published in 2003. They are so weak, they clear the way for the next generation of women to be harmed. We told our stories and Nice ignored us.’

Greenway said in her article last year that she: ‘will not shut up or put up until there is a complete ban on an implant that is designed to be permanent and has proved, in far too many cases, to be unstable with severe flaws that can cause life-changing conditions to those affected and their families.’

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