The Truth About Vaginal Mesh

The story behind sensational headlines

Woman on computer reading about vaginal mesh risks

Sensational news coverage and ads by law firms have spread fear among women about vaginal mesh, a medical device used to treat pelvic organ prolapse (POP), which occurs when weakened pelvic muscles allow these organs to drop from their normal position.

With so much negative information out there, what are the facts about vaginal mesh?

“Women need to know that they can’t believe everything they hear on the news,” says gynecologist Marie Paraiso, MD, Head, Section of Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery. “Early meshes were not well designed for acceptance into the body, but not all mesh is bad.”

For women who have had vaginal mesh inserted, Dr. Paraiso advises watching for the most common complications. If your doctor is recommending vaginal mesh, be sure he or she is highly skilled for the procedure and that other alternatives have been ruled out.

How vaginal mesh works

Vaginal mesh has been used since about 2005 to treat POP, and is very similar to the mesh products that have been used to treat hernias for many years.

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“It’s placed in the space between the vagina and bladder or rectum and attached to the ligaments in the pelvis,” says Dr. Paraiso. “It spans the area where the prolapse is taking place and gives the vagina the support it once had.”

The way these early vaginal meshes were designed, along with the inexperience of many physicians using them, led the Food and Drug Administration to issue a statement in 2008 warning of serious complications from these devices, she says. A second warning followed in 2011.

What are the complications?

Most complications from vaginal mesh occur in the first three to six months following the procedure, says Dr. Paraiso.

If you’ve received a vaginal mesh procedure, watch for:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Other types of chronic pain
  • Fever or vaginal discharge that’s bloody or malodorous
  • A recurrence of the prolapse

What are the alternatives?

Every woman who receives a recommendation for vaginal mesh should ask about alternative methods of treatment. Dr. Paraiso and her colleagues use vaginal mesh rarely, and only in select cases where it’s needed.

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Most frequently, she can use a woman’s own tissues to create additional support for the pelvic organs.

“There are surgeons with very good experience who are well-prepared for pelvic floor surgery,” says Dr. Paraiso. “Ask your doctor what type of training and experience they have in treating POP, and ask what your alternatives are.”

More information

Incontinence and Prolapse Treatment Guide

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  • Annonymous

    This article is very misleading. While its a good sign that the authors don’t routinely use mesh, they still imply that mesh complications are rare and overly sensationalized. As someone who has suffered from the use of hernia mesh I can tell you that it is the use of a foreign toxic substance that can cause life destroying complications. This isn’t overly dramatic, and it isn’t rare. I can no longer work, take care of my home or even perform normal daily activities without assistance. The updated 2011 FDA warning clearly states that serious complications are not rare.

  • Suzanne

    What a fool this woman is! It is not the law firms hyping this, it is people who have been injured trying to warn others before their lives are destroyed too. As far as her statement, “Vaginal mesh has been used since about 2005 to treat POP, and is very
    similar to the mesh products that have been used to treat hernias for
    many years” is she an ostrich or something with her head buried in the sand? There are thousands upon thousands of people out there with complications from hernia mesh too. Get real lady! Let someone implant this garbage in you, and when you have complications, we may be so generous as to allow you into our support groups!

  • meshruinslives

    WHERE is the sensational news coverage? Patients injured by surgical mesh have been screaming for years, and mainstream media for the most part turns a blind eye refusing to cover the story. We, the injured patients, who have been tortured by these devices can tell you THE TRUTH ABOUT VAGINAL MESH.

    The pain that we suffer as a result of being deceived, ignored, and dismissed by our physicians, is only compounded by the inexplicable refusal of professional medical organizations to acknowledge the massive extent of this
    problem, or the inability of physicians at respected centers like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic to adequately deal with complications.

    It is time to bring media coverage up a notch further, and investigate and expose the flaws in the medical system that continue to allow this to happen! This is criminal!


    I had a 4 hr pelvic floor reconstruction done 8 yrs ago using my own tissue, no mesh. It was successful in repairing damaged flr muscles and corrected prolapse, recto else and cystocele. For a while, I did not get frequent UTIs that were a major concern. However, UTIS have recurred with more frequency, as urge incontinence has too. All tests show no abnormalities in structure. Considering D Mannose supplements and/or Botox. Was on Methenamine and Vit C 1000mg 4x day. Discontinued use. Comments and anecdotal s appreciated.

  • KT

    I don’t believe the good Dr has ever been implanted with mesh in her private parts, or she would have been singing a different tune. I was one of the first to be experimented on in 2001 and no amount of begging, crying or being sick would raise any compassion from my attending specialists in regards to removing the mesh from my body. I lost my job, partner, ability to have a sex life, and my health, all within months after having the mesh put in side me. I can’t go for walks and I am house bound now. I went from having an athletic life style, ball room dancing, white water canoeing, cycling all summer long, to being disabled, house bound taking several naps through out the day, just to get the bare basics done. Lastly the same mesh they used for POP, they used for my TVT, and it’s sawed it’s way through my vagina while it shrank and hardened inside me. I have had to catheter since day one and suffer reoccurring bladder infections that are so frequent that my GP refuses to give me antibiotics any longer because they no longer work. All that’s left for me is to do now is either continue to suffer on until I die from complications or make the effort to join hands with my mesh sisters and fight to stop this surgical atrocity once and for all. Many other women who have had adverse reactions from mesh report that they have been implanted in the past year with the “new” and “better” mesh that the good Dr. So highly exalts. Mesh must never be used in anyone’s body, except perhaps in over zealous medical mesh enthusiasts like the doctors that advocate it’s use. Let them be the lab rats and dogs to be experimented on instead of unsuspecting women who are being mislead into believing that the new mesh is safe to use, or better yet, being told nothing at all.

  • Vikicat

    I had mesh done worked great for many years. Now I keep getting bladder infections also getting hives and my blood sugar is way up due having to take steroids. Not sure how hard this will be to have the mesh removed. It was nightmare for my poor sister.

  • Messed up by mesh

    What you hear in the lawyer ads is the truth!
    Do you want a taste of what reality is with mesh implanted in you? Then come join the support group TVTNO.ORG on the Internet.
    While I’m glad to hear that you rarely use mesh, you really need to get your facts straight!

  • helenals

    What actually is the mesh? Is it Alloderm?

    • Messed up by mesh

      Polypropylene. Plastic. It erodes in your body. Embeds itself in your nerves and tissue.

  • Anonymous RN

    I had a hysterectomy, cystocele and rectocele repaired at the same time in 2006. 2 weeks after I woke up one morning and couldn’t urinate. I actually had to either stand up or tighten instead of relax my Kegel muscles to get any urine out. My surgeon kept telling me I was having bladder spasms and prescribed medication which did nothing. As I healed, I discovered that intercourse with my husband was so painful it eventually just disappeared from our lives, after having years of a very healthy sex life together. A few years later when I was at the Mayo Clinic, their urologist ran tests that confirmed the return of my cystocele. It had failed 2 weeks after surgery. A few more years went by and the difficulty in urinating turned into incontinence! I eventually agreed to have a sacral colpopexy done with the DaVinci robotic system which is an outpatient procedure and is done via 5 small incisions in the lower abdomen. Imagine my shock and suprise when I awoke hours later in a hospital room cut from hip to hip in excruciating pain!!! He did not EVER discuss the possibility of having any kind of open procedure, didn’t go out to discuss it first with my husband nor bring me out of anesthesia long enough to ask me if I wanted an open procedure. This was an elective procedure…his opening me up was just more money for him and the hospital. Because of the hypermobility of my bowels from the prep I’d done, he was having difficulty visualizing the organs using the robotic device. But, it was NOT a life saving procedure he did at all. My recovery went very poorly with the incision opening up several times as well as being infected. The surgery was January of 2012 and in August that same year, I was still having pus drain from the wound!! And I still have the urinary incontinence and intercourse is extremely painful.
    I am part of a class action suit against the manufacturers of the devices of theirs used in the original surgery. Getting the judge to hear about each and every woman’s case is time consuming, so who knows when this will be resolved. I contacted an attorney about the 2nd surgery and he didn’t think I had a case. Probably because when you sign the OR consent it vaguely covers EVERYTHING !!
    So, what am I supposed to do now?? My husband and I cannot have marital relations, I feel dirty and unsexy wearing urine soaked pads day and night as well as 6 ugly scars on my abdomen, one being huge and thick from all the infections, and the smaller ones which shouldn’t be noticeable are larger because I’m allergic to the sutures they used and all those smaller incisions abscessed repeatedly, this leaving ugly scars.
    So, I agree that this problem is very widespread and needs to be recognized for what it is…..malfunctioning meshes and tapes that have horribly affected the lives of countless women!! It IS a serious problem so don’t diminish it to us or the public.

  • T. L.

    I am very concerned that this site is trying to tell women that transvaginal mesh is a good product and safe. There are thousands of us who have had this poison implanted in our vagina’s. why don’t you tell the truth, that once it is implanted it is next to impossible to surgically remove it. It can and does call perfomations in the bowel, your cervix or your uteris. Please antone considering this procedure, run as fast as you can. While urinary incontinence is not pleasant at least you are left intack. It takes a lot for the FDA to issue warnings. This mesh is made with polypropalene, essentially desiel fuel. You are tring to blame inexperienced surgeons, thst is simply not true. My doctor is the top urogynecoligist in my province in Canada. I can no longer be intimate with my husband, i have had a half dozen surgeries to try and remove it, repair the damage it caused. I am permanently disabled by this product. Yout infomation on this site is not the truth. If this post can save just one i have done my job. Please be informed and educate yourself. Failure to do so can and will cause you a lifetime of pain and misery. This product and all other surgical mesh is trouble with a capital T.

    • Lisa Holyk

      Thanks for the warning. After reading the article, I briefly considered talking to my doctor about my issues. After reading yours, I realized that the article failed to mention statistics on how often it happens, and frankly, the fact that there have been 2 warns, one as recently as 2011 was troubling to me.

  • mike michaels

    less media reports, more lawyer seeking clients to sue

  • annjs

    I had the sling procedure in 2006. It has worked well. Urine stream is not as good but I can empty and no more incontinence.

  • Lee Tee

    This report seems to imply that earlier versions of mesh were the culprit, but I had a Monarc sling implanted in 2007. The doctor also states that mesh complications arise early 3-6 months after implantation. I had symptoms immediately, but were blamed on other medical issues I had. I had complete breakdown, shrinking of the mesh and slicing of tissues from implant in 2012/13. I had the mesh removed which in 2013 in UCLA Med Center, then had another procedure to treat prolapse in 2014 UCLA. 3 months post op I am still in incredible pain. If you are thinking about mesh implants for pop or even hernia…please do your research on the net and see the multitudes of people crying out to get help. I hope I save one of you from your worst nightmare.

  • Carol

    I am also a patient of TVT. The Dr. NEVER EVEN INFORMED ME that he was using Mesh !!!!! I’ve had so many surgeries I cannot even keep count. My last surgery was supposed to be a small bowel obstruction, it turned into a Complete Adhesion take down, as the surgeon worked over 7 hours digging mesh out of my body. 3 years later and I still habe Open Wounds that will Not close due to my body REJECTING MESH !! I am in chronic pain and am completely incontinent. Bury your head in the sand if you want, but my ordeal is REAL,as are Many others. It’s folks like the one who wrote this article that is keeping us from being heard ! How dare you say this is being over exaggerated. Tell that to my body. I used to be full of energy, now I am a shadow of the woman I used to be. I can’t even be Intimate with my husband anymore. I miss that. I miss the real woman I USED to be.