If you are a woman who recently had a pelvic organ prolapse, or are dealing with stress urinary incontinence, you may have heard about the possibility of using a pessary to address these issues.
Perhaps you are still not sure about whether or not using a pessary is the best option for you. Inserting a foreign device into your vaginal tube is a serious matter that requires thorough contemplation. Besides, you may not want to take any more risks when you already have a urinary condition to deal with.
To help you out of this dilemma, we will go through the benefits, side effects, and other alternative options to using a pessary, and help you make your final decision.
What is a Pessary?
So, what is a pessary? It is a small, plastic device that you may have to place into your vagina for treating certain pelvic disorders. It is a flexible, removable device that supports the other pelvic organs and helps retain their correct position.
These devices are made from medical-grade silicone and are usually safe to use. There are different types of pessaries that doctors recommend after examining the situation.
When Should You Use a Pessary?
The two most common cases where a doctor will recommend using a pessary device are pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. However, there are a few other conditions that may require you to have to use this flexible device.
Pelvic Organ Prolapse
This is a condition wherein an organ in your bladder or the lower belly slides away from its original position. A pelvic organ prolapse usually occurs when the muscles supporting your organs become too weak to hold it in place.
Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)
Stress urinary incontinence refers to leakage of urine that occurs as a result of extra pressure on the bladder. SUI may happen due to sneezing, laughing, coughing, or other physical activities. According to a report, around 15% of women suffering from a pelvic organ prolapse also have SUI.
Other conditions where you may have to use a pessary include:
- Uterine Prolapse
- Preoperative preparation
How Does a Pessary Work?
Once a doctor confirms your condition, the medical professional will choose one of the different types of pessaries.
Another factor that doctors consider while choosing a pessary is its size. The device must fit into your vaginal tube with ease and allow you to urinate without the fear of it falling out.
Once the doctor inserts this device into your vaginal tube, it takes up the empty space in your pelvis, fitting snugly. This way, it holds the organs in place and prevents leakage.
Benefits of Using a Pessary
A pessary is an easy alternative to several critical treatments and is often recommended by doctors. It has a host of benefits:
- Easy maintenance: A pessary’s primary benefit is that it is a low maintenance option. Once you find one that fits well, and learn how to use it properly, you can wear, remove, wash, and change it all by yourself.
- Cost-effective: A pessary device is more affordable than many expensive treatments and surgeries.
- Does not require time-off/bed rest: Unlike surgeries, another excellent benefit of pessaries is they do not require you to take time off from work or your other personal responsibilities. You may need to take some time to get comfortable with it, sure, but you won't need to be completely out of commission during that time.
Does Using a Pessary Have Side Effects?
So, what are the side effects of using a pessary? When compared to surgery for pelvic organ prolapse, pessary side effects are typically minor by comparison1. There are still some challenges and complications that you may have to face, however.
- Vaginal irritation
- Excessive vaginal discharge
- Vaginal bleeding
- Infections, such as a urinary tract infection
Other than the side effects mentioned above, you may have a few challenges with:
- Finding the right size
- Device maintenance
- Sexual intercourse
Pessary Alternatives to Handle Incontinence
If you are dealing with pelvic organ prolapse, it's possible that you and your doctor conclude that using a pessary is the best way to go for you.
Note that a pessary device is not always helpful in treating stress urinary incontinence. In fact, at times, using this device to treat pelvic organ prolapse might make way for involuntary urine leakage2.
If, however, you are specifically looking for a way to address stress urinary incontinence with minimal side effects to your health, there are many options out there for you to potentially try out.
One of the best ways to manage light incontinence is to try out incontinence pads. These are highly comfortable and breathable, eliminating the chances of developing infections. Additionally, they are extremely soft, so you need not worry about rashes.
Here’s a list of some high-quality pad options:
- Prevail Ultra-Thin Incontinence Pads – for light, occasional incontinence; women
- Caroli Feminine Incontinence Pads – for regular absorbency; women
- Tranquility Select Unisex Incontinence Pad – for light absorbency; unisex
- TENA Unisex Bladder Control Incontinence Pads – for moderate absorbency; unisex
A pessary is a temporary solution to pelvic disorders in women. However, doctors widely recommend it due to its ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and other advantages over surgery.
That being said, it can have multiple side effects such as pain, bleeding, or irritation.
Using incontinence pads and other similar products can be comfortable and effective for treating stress urinary incontinence. You need not worry about it falling off, sudden leakages, pain, or other setbacks. Besides, they are also cost-effective.
Consult with your doctor, weigh the pros and cons, and only then make your final decision.
Is it painful to have a pessary inserted?
Getting a pessary inserted is not too painful at that moment, though it can get highly discomforting. Although you will get used to it after a while, it might still have side effects like vaginal pain and other effects, especially if it's not the proper size.
Who is a good candidate for a pessary?
Women can have a pelvic disorder at any age. The best candidates for a pessary include pregnant women with a pelvic disorder, and elderly women for whom getting surgery might create extreme complications.
1. Lone, F.; Thakar, R.; Sultan, A. (April 2015). "One-year prospective comparison of vaginal pessaries and surgery for pelvic organ prolapse using the validated ICIQ-VS and ICIQ-UI (SF) questionnaires". International Urogynecology Journal 26(9) DOI:10.1007/s00192-015-2686-9
2. McDougall, C. (September 2019). "Potential Side Effects and Risks of Pessary Use". Toronto Pessary Clinic
Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.