A vaginal pessary is a removable device placed into the vagina. It is designed to support areas of pelvic organ prolapse.
Your doctor or nurse practitioner will fit your pessary to hold the pelvic organs in position without causing discomfort. Pessaries come in different sizes and should be fitted carefully.
Pessaries can be used successfully to treat other gynecologic conditions, such as a uterus that is in the wrong position.
Your pessary will be fitted at your doctor’s office. You may need to experiment with different kinds of pessaries to find one that feels right for you. Your doctor’s office will teach you how to remove, clean, and reinsert your pessary on a regular schedule. If it is hard for you to remove and replace your pessary, you can have it done regularly at your doctor’s office.
Pessaries are used as a nonsurgical approach to the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse. Pessaries are also used when symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse are mild or when childbearing is not complete. Pessaries are sometimes used to see what the effect of surgery for pelvic organ prolapse will be on urinary symptoms, or pessaries are used when a woman does not want or cannot have surgical repair. This is called a “pessary test.” If you have a problem with incontinence with a pessary inserted, a separate surgery to fix the incontinence problem may be done at the same time as a prolapse surgery.
Pessaries do not cure pelvic organ prolapse but help manage and slow the progression of prolapse. They add support to the vagina and increase tightness of the tissues and muscles of the pelvis. Symptoms improve in many women who use a pessary. And for some women, symptoms go away. The female urology team at Urologic Consultants can help you decide if a pessary is right for you.
Possible complications from wearing a pessary include:
- Open sores in the vaginal wall.
- Wearing away of the vaginal wall. In severe cases, an opening (fistula) can form between the vagina and the rectum.
- Bulging of the rectum against the vaginal wall (rectocele formation).
Complications can be minimized by having a pessary that fits correctly and that does not put too much pressure on the wall of the vagina. Your pessary should be checked frequently by your doctor until both of you are satisfied with the fit.
In postmenopausal women, estrogen (cream, ring, or tablets) is sometimes used with a pessary to help with irritation caused by the pessary.
Follow your doctor’s instructions for cleaning your pessary. Regular cleaning reduces the risk of complications. The cleaning schedule is determined by the type of pelvic organ prolapse and the specific brand of pessary.
What To Think About
Pessaries often are an effective tool for managing pelvic organ prolapse without surgery. They may be the best choice if you are a young woman who has not finished having children, if you have been told that surgery would be risky for you, or if you do not wish to have surgery for other reasons.
For some women, a pessary may not be a good choice after a hysterectomy. This is because the walls of the vagina are no longer held in place by the uterus and cervix. Women with severe prolapse following a hysterectomy may have difficulty keeping the pessary in place.
Depending on your comfort level and the type of pessary, you may be able to leave the pessary in during sexual intercourse. But you cannot insert a diaphragm (a round rubber device used as a barrier method of birth control) while wearing a pessary. If you have not reached menopause, you may want to discuss birth control with your doctor.
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