Belinda Bibby is one of thousands of women who find after giving birth that their pelvic floor is weakened – and after five children it is hardly surprising.
She was told the TVT mesh tape sling would revolutionise her life so she could exercise and go about her daily life without any worries.
So in 2005 she went for it. As a busy working mum running her own business she said it was great for the first six months.
However, her decision to have a TVT mesh operation was to be the worst decision of her life.
She said the pain and complications were so bad that: “I felt like cracking up at times. The medical profession need to know the seriousness of adverse side effects, GPs and nurses in doctor’s surgeries need to know how bad this operation can be.
”Around 1 in 3 women’ suffer leaks at some point and the problem is on the rise among younger women who haven’t had babies, due to the popularity of high impact exercise classes and long distance running that put intense pressure on the pelvic floor.
The operation fits a mesh sling to support weakened muscles. More than 100,000 women have had it done on the NHS in the last decade.
Belinda said: “The mesh sling fixed the leaks and life was good, however, my health slowly began going downhill.
“After six months the sling failed and then I started suffering horrendous auto immune reactions.
“I had fatigue, severe unexplained headaches, swelling and stiffness in my hands.
Liver readings dangerously high
“My liver readings became so dangerously high from the severe sensitivity reaction to the mesh that I was unable to take even paracetamol or antibiotics for the pains, infections and inflammation within my body.
“For the last year of having the sling inside me I had to have my liver checked every two weeks.”
Belinda explained: “I suffered with oedema, spots, boils and abscesses that would come up all over my body and leak pus, and I had a strange purple rash on my face and up to five asthma attacks a day at its worst.
Things got so bad she found a specialist, one of only a handful in the UK, who can safely remove the plastic mesh sling and in January 2015 she had it taken out.
“I had severe stomach inflammation and I lost the hearing in my right ear as well as experiencing a clicky jaw for no apparent reason.
“After mesh was removed my health completely returned to normal. There are ‘no words’ to describe how good it feels.
“I can walk without my body aching, be it my joints or muscles, from head to my feet. I suffered for nine years.
“I’m living proof that women can get auto immune reactions to the TVT sling which is made of polypropylene.”
She has since had two traditional surgery fixes in a bid to fix her incontinence – the latest one has worked although she is now suffering infections.
Plastic sling regret
But she said: “At least with traditional surgery there are no side effects of plastic mesh.
“I wish I had been given proper guidance from my surgeon so that I had the traditional surgical fix in the first place.
“I endured years of not getting any help with all my symptoms, because no one knows of the adverse effects of the TVT,” she said. “I had to do all my own research on the internet.
Stiffness in my feet upon getting out of bed first thing in the morning about 6 months after insertion of the TVT, (inflammatory arthritis in my feet) since gone, also the stress incontinence slowly returning too about 6 months later besides stiffness in my hands, fybromyalgia brain fog, urgency to go the toilet unable to sit down to pee, more and more frequently getting unexplained UTIs.
I was told it’s all in my head, or was told I was getting older or you’re on the change. Then I found information from a site on the internet, then joined a forum to get help to find a doctor to help remove the TVT mesh tape.
“Once inserted it’s designed never to come back out and is like trying to get chewing gum out of matted hair.”