If you have incontinence, or a pelvic organ prolapse, you’ve likely heard the term “pessary” tossed around at some point. Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which your pelvic floor becomes weak or compromised – sometimes due to age, sometimes due to trauma (like childbirth), causing one or more of your pelvic organs to collapse into the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse can be mild, or severe, and symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity. Some women may not even realize they have a prolapse until later in life. Symptoms can include pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, incontinence, or even pain.
While some women can see big improvements in their condition with physical therapy, the condition cannot truly be “fixed” without surgery. But, it is possible to manage pelvic organ prolapse by using a pessary.
A pessary is a medical device, typically made out of silicone that is placed in the vagina and is used to support the pelvic floor, and the bladder, uterus and rectum. Pessaries are not a one-size-fits all type of device. Everyone is different so your doctor will usually fit you for one that works for you. This may take a few tries, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you try doesn’t feel quite right. Just be open with your doctor and work with them until you get the right fit.
Once you’ve found the right fit, your doctor will train you on how to insert and remove the device. You’ll also learn how to care for your pessary, which will require weekly or biweekly cleansing.
Pessaries can be a great solution for women with pelvic organ prolapse, or bladder incontinence, who don’t want to consider surgery (or are not quite ready for surgery yet). It works by “holding up” the organs that may have collapsed into the vagina, relieving many of the side effects of a prolapse, such as the feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or incontinence.
If you think you may be a good candidate for a pessary, talk to your doctor. They can review the pros and cons and help get you fitted for one. It’s a great option for those experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can provide great relief without undergoing surgery.