Frequently asked questions for women with pelvic mesh

What is pelvic mesh?

Pelvic mesh, also known as transvaginal mesh as it is implanted in a surgical procedure via the vagina, is woven synthetic netting usually made from Polypropylene. Other synthetic meshes can be implanted via laparoscopic procedure for intra-abdominal approach.

Pelvic mesh is implanted into the pelvis for a variety of conditions, usually pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence.

  • Pelvic organ prolapse - a condition where a woman’s vaginal walls and pelvic organs (uterus, bladder and bowel) lose natural support, which causes them to bulge down within, and sometimes outside of the vagina. Find out more about pelvic organ prolapse
  • Stress urinary incontinence - a condition where the supporting tissues of the bladder neck and urethra lose their natural support, which causes an accidental loss of urine with physical activity such as coughing, sneezing or exercise. Find out more about stress urinary incontinence

These two conditions are different but both may occur in the same woman, and the surgeries for the two conditions may be performed together. The mesh used in each condition is made from the same material, but the nature of the operation for each condition is quite different.

In most cases:

  • The recommended first line treatment for either condition is with a physiotherapist trained in pelvic floor problems, except in severe prolapse as outlined above.
  • Women can safely choose to have no treatment and prefer to manage with pads or other treatment / aids.
  • Treatment is usually only recommended if prolapse or incontinence symptoms are bothersome, or there is an extremely large prolapse creating bladder blockage, kidney blockage, vaginal ulceration or pelvic pain. 
  • Women should consider conservative (non-surgical) treatment before considering surgical treatment.
  • Surgery for both prolapse and stress incontinence generally involve procedures that reinforce the weakened support tissues.
  • Many women choose to go on to surgery because they have not gained sufficient improvement with non-surgical treatments, and the condition is affecting their quality of life.

What support is available?

The Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) remains in operation for consumers requiring information about transvaginal mesh, operating between 9.00 am and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

Support for country residents

Patients living in a rural or remote area that need to travel more than 100 kilometres to see a specialist may be eligible for support through the Patient Assistance Transport Scheme (PATS). 

For more information about PATS, visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/pats.

What other support is available?

I am waiting to go in for a pelvic procedure but I am scared now?

If you have any concerns about your upcoming surgical procedure you would benefit from speaking to your doctor / surgeon so that you are fully informed before your procedure and what medical device, if any are planned on being used in your procedure.

Contact the SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line on 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) if you require any assistance.

Can I get access to my medical records?

SA Health agency

Each SA Health agency operates separately for the purposes of FOI legislation.

Applications for access to documents must be made in writing and lodged with the agency that holds the document. To apply for access to your personal medical records you can complete the Pelvic Procedure: Freedom of Information Application Form (PDF 342KB) or you can download an FOI form from the website of the site where the surgery was performed.

It is recommended that you read the Pelvic Procedure: Request for Access to Health Records fact sheet (PDF 238KB) before completing and lodging your application.

The SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line: 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) can provide more information regarding accessing your medical records.

Note  SA Health is supporting women in South Australia who are experiencing complications from pelvic mesh, and is waiving the FOI application fee and the associated charges.

Private health service

Australian Privacy Principle 12 in the Privacy Act deals with access to personal information (including health information). However, it doesn't set out any requirements for the way you should make an access request.

This means you can request access to your medical records simply by asking the health service provider holding the records. If the request is a complex one, for example the information comes from a number of different sources, it may be necessary to provide the request in writing. Your health service provider may need to establish your identity before providing you with access.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by the ‘private health service’, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Can a health service provider refuse to give me access to my medical records because it would pose a threat to either my, or somebody else's life or health?

In some cases, an individual may need a representative to assist them in gaining access to their medical record. For instance, an individual may be unable to exercise their access rights because they lack the legal capacity to do so, but their guardian (if they have one) may seek access, if the guardian has the appropriate legal authority.

How can I make a request for access to my medical records?

When making an application for access to your medical records through the Freedom of Information process you will need to provide enough information to enable the correct documents to be identified.

Each SA Health agency operates separately for the purposes of Freedom of Information legislation.

Applications for access to documents must be made in writing and lodged with the agency that holds the document. To apply for access to your personal medical records you can complete the Pelvic Procedure: Freedom of Information Application Form (PDF 339KB) or you can download an FOI form from the website of the site where the surgery was performed.

It is recommended that you read the Pelvic Procedure: Request for Access to Health Records3 fact sheet before completing and lodging your application.

The SA Health Pelvic Mesh Consumer Support Line: 1800 66 MESH (1800 666 374) can provide more information regarding accessing your medical records.

Note  SA Health is supporting women in South Australia who are experiencing complications from pelvic mesh, and is waiving the Freedom of Information application fee and the associated charges.

Private health services

Australian Privacy Principle 12 in the Privacy Act2 deals with access to personal information (including health information). However, it doesn't set out any requirements for the way you should make an access request.

This means you can request access to your medical records simply by asking the health service provider holding the records. If the request is a complex one, for example the information comes from a number of different sources, it may be necessary to provide the request in writing. Your health service provider may need to establish your identity before providing you with access.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to your medical record by the ‘private health service’, you can make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.