Twenty million women suffer from a problem they are reluctant to talk about: urinary incontinence. Too many, mostly under 40 years old, endure embarrassing wetting accidents and most are too humiliated to seek professional help.
But an innovative laparoscopic surgery can correct the problem quickly and improve one's quality of life in just 20 minutes.
Forty-year-old Marita Dow, a mother of two and a busy physical education teacher, had urinary incontinence.
"It was very difficult because I'd always have to run to the bathroom before I started teaching classes and make sure I had a pad on so I didn't have an embarrassing moments with the kids that I was teaching," she says.
Being a mother put her at higher risk. During childbirth, pelvic support muscles can weaken, causing the bladder to drop and put pressure on the urethra, which results in loss of control.
The solution lies in returning a so-called dropped bladder to its proper position. Traditional surgery can accomplish this but it can be invasive and require days in the hospital.
"We have no vaginal incision and the incision in the abdominal area is only half [the size] because we're using a laparoscope," Dr. Gerard Pregenzer, an ob-gyn at Somerset Medical Center in New Jersey, says of the new procedure.
He and fellow ob-gyn Dr. Marlan Schwartz developed the surgery. It involves inserting a microscopic camera through the abdominal wall before attaching a mesh graft to the neck of the bladder to return it to it's proper position.
The procedure has been done on about 200 patients. Doctors say the success rate is more than 90%. It costs $2,500 and is covered by most insurance plans.
It's been nearly 3 years since Marita had the surgery. Her incontinence is gone and her life is back to normal.
"I got my confidence back--my self-esteem back," she says. "I was happy not to have the wear the pads."
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