Women sound alarm over treatments for common urinary issue

Women sound alarm over treatments for common urinary issue »Play Video
Robin Swenson
SEATTLE -- Three months ago, simple movements were impossible for Robin Swenson. Excruciating pain prevented almost all normal movement.

"Any movement at all hurt," she said. "I mean, like on a scale of one to 10, it was like an eight all the time."

Swenson was an athletic woman with an active outdoor lifestyle. Then a year ago, Swenson says her gynecologist recommended surgery to correct what she called an "annoyance" -- Stress Urinary Incontinence, or SUI.

"When I sneeze, when I laugh, you know you have the leakage," she said.

SUI is common for women who have had children. And more and more women are turning to surgery to correct it using mesh implants to support the bladder.

In 2010, more than a quarter million women had such surgeries. And many of them, like Swenson, develop complications.

"Finally... I went to another doctor and he said the mesh is exposed -- it has to come out," Swenson said.

Two years ago, the FDA released a warning about the mesh products. This year, it directed 41 mesh manufacturers to do follow-up studies because of the serious complications.

After three surgeries, Swenson is now on the road to recovery. But Seattle Attorney Corrie Yackulic represents a number of women who aren't as lucky.

"These complications are horrible, I mean they are completely life-altering," Yackulic said.

She says several of her clients will never regain what they've lost.

"They will have to be basically re-plumbed and will urinate into a bag for the rest of their lives," she said.

Swenson knows she's lucky and decided to talk about her case in hopes of warning other women.

"It's just a really, really hard, painful thing," she said. "And if I can help one person to not have to go through it, then you make a difference."

The FDA adds that there are non-surgical options for women including physical therapy and injections. Already more than 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against the different mesh manufacturers as a result of the complications.