Women who couldn't have vaginal sex due to ongoing sexual dysfunction from urogynaecological mesh "repeatedly" reported their doctors suggested having anal sex instead, a Senate inquiry into the devices has heard.
"It has been told to us repeatedly," senator Rachel Siewert told a Perth public hearing on Friday for the inquiry, of which she is the chair.
Urogynaecological meshes, sometimes known as transvaginal meshes, are inserted into women as a treatment option for pelvic organ prolapse (when the connective tissue securing the vagina and uterus to the pelvis gives way after childbirth), or urinary incontinence.
In the submissions to the inquiry, women have listed many complications which they say arose after the insertion of the mesh, which is polypropylene, non-absorbable, and acts as a permanent implant.
These include: chronic and constant vaginal pain; visceral pain with bowel movements; dyspareunia (pain during sex); vaginal bleeding; the granulation of vaginal tissue; pain through the glutes; inflammatory reactions; "offensive discharge"; incontinence; leg weakness; and haemorrhages.
The reports that doctors were suggesting patients try anal sex to cope with painful sex indicative of "just how many doctors have been ignoring the issues women have had with mesh", Siewert told BuzzFeed News on Monday.
"How this has gone on for so long amazes me frankly," Siewert said.
"The feeling from the women is just overwhelming despair at what they have been told by doctors."
Siewert said patients had been told their ongoing symptoms were "all in their head" by doctors.
"This is women being told to just get over it," she said.
"It is really distressing sitting in the [public hearings] and watching the women having to get up and stand against the wall because they just can't sit for very long without pain."
Perth urogynaecologist Dr Michelle Atherton told the inquiry she was "truly shocked a colleague would [suggest anal sex as a solution to sexual dysfunction] to a woman".
"I am aghast. I feel awful," Atherton told the inquiry on Friday, the Illawarra Mercury reported.
The Australian Senate inquiry launched in February and will continue to hear from patients and medical experts in public hearings around the country.
It will also examine the Therapeutic Goods Administration's "knowledge of women suffering from health problems after having transvaginal mesh implants", and is expected to report back in November.
Meanwhile, a legal battle is taking place in the Federal Court in Sydney between hundreds of women and a pharmaceutical giant that manufactures the implants.
The class action, which involves more than 700 Australian women, is against Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, which has sold more than 100,000 mesh and tape implants.
Shine Lawyers, representing the women, has said there could be upwards of 8,000 Australians who have been implanted with one of nine devices and suffered complications that may be entitled to join the action.
In the statement of claim, supplied to BuzzFeed News, patients have listed a raft of symptoms and complications they say they have suffered following the insertion of the nine Ethicon mesh devices.
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.