Rebecca, 50, New Jersey, and mother of three
Can you tell me about your pelvic organ prolapse type and the symptoms you have experienced?
I had stress urinary incontinence and stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse. I was not able to exercise or take long walks after the birth of my third child. If I took an exercise class, I would have to take breaks during the class and go to the bathroom.
The biggest change was during my period, as I could not cough or sneeze without leaking, which basically made me house bound for almost a week every month.
I felt numbness, and then pressure all day long that would worsen as the day went on depending on what I was doing. I felt like I had to go to the bathroom all the time, but then I had no relief when I did; it would only subside when I would lie down. There was a pink egg shape drop in the standing position from my vagina.
What was your experience like once you sought professional medical help to treat the prolapse?
A few doctors said my symptoms were not that bad and one told me to wear a tampon. Another said I should just have a hysterectomy. I tried physical therapy and a pessary, but my symptoms were too far gone for this approach. Once I chose surgery for my treatment, my doctor suggested going to a urogynecologist, saying they would have the best answers for me based on my symptoms.
What factors did you consider when you looked for information about surgical treatment options for SUI?
I looked at which treatment would give me the best, long lasting results with the easiest recovery.
How long ago did you undergo surgery to treat SUI?
Four years ago.
What was your recovery process like immediately after surgery?
I felt fine in the evening of the surgery, but I did take Motrin. It mostly felt like menstrual cramps. I felt better the next morning after the packing was removed.
How long following surgery did it take for you to feel “normal?”
After the surgery I felt normal after two weeks; I found myself wondering how I did anything before the surgery.
When did you go back to work? Start to exercise?
Due to my issues with stress urinary incontinence and prolapse, I was not able to work for five years. After the surgery I found a full time job within a few months where I still presently work.
Exercise: I tried to return after eight weeks, but it was uncomfortable to run or take a class. I did wait the full 12 weeks to return to vigorous exercise and running. I also spoke to women that told me their surgery failed and they believed it was because they did too much too soon. To me it was not worth the risk, so I waited. I was able to walk everyday and take a gentle yoga classes about a week after surgery.
Is there anything you wish you knew ahead of time that you know now?
Information about these issues was slim when I was looking for other women to speak to and answers. Unfortunately, when I looked into surgery, the mesh lawsuits had started (2008 – 2009) so my experience seeking treatment was derailed.
My suggestion to women is that if you don't like the answers you are getting from your doctor, keep look for the right match. You know your body and what feels right and wrong for you. Women need to talk openly about this and not shame other women for their bodies failing. (I was shamed when I tried to speak to other women).
In what ways did your life change after receiving the sling as a treatment?
I felt normal again, and was able to take my children to the playground, attended functions, and go to a movie and dinner without having to worry about getting up to go the bathroom. Before surgery, I could never go anywhere that I did not know where the bathrooms were located.
Incontinence does not have to be a life sentence. I have met other women who have had successful stories and lives after seeking help.
Read more interviews with real women who have gone through surgery for stress urinary incontinence (SUI). Learn about their recovery immediately after surgery, how long it took to get back to everyday activities and the effectiveness for treatment after receiving the sling as a treatment for SUI. If you are interested in sharing your own experience, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.