How an operation to fix an embarrassing problem that Kate Winslet suffers, is ruining women's lives.

Kath Sansom

Kath Sansom

So you've had a baby and after worrying how to safely strap in their car seat, get them to sleep through the night and how to shed your baby fat the last thing on your mind is pelvic floor exercises.

But just because you can't see them, doesn't mean you should ignore your once toned insides, stretched by carrying a baby for nine months.

For some mums the pelvic floor remains strong but for others - around 40 per cent - they never quite get back to what they were.

If you had a big baby, suffered from psd or had a particularly long labour then you are more likely to fall prey.

Add a few years down the line and as muscles give way to gravity you may find you start suffering what I call the "Baby Badge." A sneeze, a cough, laugh too heartily or God forbid a jump on a trampoline with the kids and you get a timely little accident to remind you that your pelvic floor isn't quite what it was - ending up with an embarrassing pant peeing situation ranging from minor to all-out trouser wetting.

Most of us laugh it off, Ok so it's not a glamorous discussion topic, but even the gorgeous Kate Winslet openly joked how she suffers from it while sitting on the chat show couch of Graham Norton recently to the horrified reaction of US rapper 50 Cent.

One sneeze is fine but three in a row and you are asking for trouble, she quipped. For me it was jumping around at gigs, boxing and trampolining that caused a problem.

For some women it gets so bad they leak with every step, wet during their sleep, or even during sex.

So when you are told about a 20 minute day case operation to fix it, seems silly not to grab the opportunity. Who wouldn't?

Except what I, and thousands of other women are not told, is of the devastating life altering consequences that can come out of something described by the NHS as a "low risk" "minimally invasive" gold standard" day case op that only needs a week off work.

Because it can definitely be life changing - but not in the way you expect.

Called a TVT or TVTO surgeons insert a sling made of plastic mesh but some of risks not properly explained to patients include:

Losing your sex life forever,

Struggling to walk or in worst case scenarios ending up in a wheelchair where nerves are damaged or cut into by the mesh tape

Searing pelvic or hip pain forever

Constant burning cystitis sensations for life

Allergic reactions to the polypropylene plastic mesh

I skipped into the operation as one of the fittest mums you could meet.

I came out struggling to walk far before leg pains cut in, cheese wiring sensations on my insides and needing a cocktail of medication to cope.

I'm not alone. There are more than 100,000 lawsuits against the mesh operation in America and women around the world left with ruined lives - all because they wanted to fix their baby badge pant wetting embarrassment.

Mum of two Claire Cooper, 41, says she struggles every day with excruciating pain and describes herself as "used to be fun"

Three years after her mesh operation she was given a womb ablation for heavy periods but the high heat literally melted the mesh into her surrounding tissue.

The GP administrator said: "Some days the pain is so bad I don't know what to do with myself. I once walked the dog 200 yards and had to be brought home by my 73 year old neighbour as I couldn't use my legs any more.

"I went in with a slight pant wetting problem and came out unable to live my life as I knew it. My life is ruined."

Scottish mum Lizzy Ford has been forced to trade her motorbike for a zimmer frame after having the mesh operation.

"I'm not the same person. I have chronic pain every day," she said.

"I've had to give up my work, give up my social life. I was a biker, I'm now using two sticks and a mobility scooter and a walker. I am so young at heart but feel like I'm trapped in the body of an 80-year-old.

When Lizzy reported the pain, she was told there was nothing wrong with the mesh, the pain was in her head and was sent to see a psychiatrist.

"I was told nobody else had ever suffered any side-effects, I was the only one."

Lizzy learned to live with it, but fell upon a story in a national paper about mesh problems, joined a support group and met up with Marion Garland, who was also told she was the only one who suffered side-effects.

Marion said: "I looked the same on the outside, but inside, I was a mess.

"Pain is 24/7. I struggle to rest and need pillows between my knees when I sleep, because if my knees touch, I get a shooting pain, because the mesh is nipping my insides.

"I used to go hill walking with my husband, I can't now. I have to seriously think about what I'm doing each day, because the tiredness, the leg pain and internal pain can be overwhelming."

Pelvic floor specialist Karen Laing said the pelvic floor was an area mostly ignored by GPs.

"From experience the commonly prescribed kegels aren't enough to fix pelvic floor problems," she said.

"Performing a kegel after having babies is as useful as picking up a cup of tea for building your biceps. There is so much more you could do.

"The most basic exercise is to sit on a hard chair or the edge of a sofa and imagine you are picking up a tissue inside your vagina.

"Another tip is to squeeze before you sneeze. This will eventually improve the reflexes in your pelvic floor.

"The position your pelvis is in is also vital for getting the exercises right. A common reason for not doing the exercises is that women can't feel them. This is why if you are struggling it's important to get to a pilates instructor or physiotherapist who understands this area.

"You have every right to get back into sports or jump on a trampoline again."

So if you are a new mum or one with older children and experiencing problems ask your GP to be referred to your local hospital gynaecology physiotherapist.

And if that still doesn't work ask for a repair using your bodies own tissue - called an autologous sling or a Burch colposuspension, in crude term, a hitch and stitch.

But if your surgeon offers the mesh sling operation then please do your research. Because it may just change your life forever

For help please visit Sling The Mesh Wordpress, Facebook or Twitter

Visit Scottish Mesh Survivors web site or Facebook support page

For details about pilates for pelvic floor visit Karen's site at www.fit-school.co.uk


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