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What is a pessary and how do I choose the right one? Our guide will tell you everything you need to know
This entry was posted on 06/07/2016.
A pessary is a device that is designed to provide support where the pelvic floor muscles are weak and pelvic organs have prolapsed or are in danger of prolapsing. Suffering from a prolapse can feel uncomfortable, frightening and humiliating. These feelings are normal, but there are many ways in which you can manage your prolapse and even avoid surgery if you wish.
There are several symptoms of prolapse - aside from discomfort and a bulging or dragging feeling in your vagina, you may also be experiencing constipation, incontinence and sexual difficulties. Lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking can help to ease your prolapse, as can regularly doing pelvic floor exercises by yourself or with a pelvic floor exerciser such as the Kegel8 Ultra 20. Extreme prolapses may require surgery to provide extra support to the pelvic floor; a pessary is an excellent non-invasive way to replace or delay this.
How does a pessary work?
Pessaries come in different materials, shapes and sizes according to what degree of prolapse they are designed to treat. You may also find that a certain design or size works for you according to the unique dimensions of your body. When a pessary is inserted it sits at the top of the vagina just underneath the cervix, creating a sort of shelf that holds up your prolapse and allows you to feel comfortable again, as well as stopping symptoms such as incontinence.
In many cases where a pessary is recommended, one will be fitted for you by a doctor or nurse. This involves going in for a fitting and your nurse will talk to you about your symptoms and perform a pelvic exam. It can take a few attempts to find the size and shape of pessary that works for you. A milder prolapse may require a doughnut or ring shaped pessary, while more severe ones will need the more supportive cube or gelhorn shapes. A properly fitted pessary won’t cause pain or discomfort and the nurse should ask you to walk around with it in for a few minutes to check that it’s ok. Once the pessary is in place it can be left in for 4-6 months, then removed at a follow up appointment. Depending on the shape of pessary you are given, you may be shown how to remove it yourself for cleaning or during intimacy.
What are the benefits and risks?
Pessaries are a gentle way to support vaginal prolapse and can prevent your symptoms so that you don’t need to resort to potentially risky solutions like surgery. However, they are not right for everyone and can sometimes cause irritation (around 13 in 100 women) or excess discharge (around 4 in 100 women). Rare side effects like these can usually be helped by the use of oestrogen creams and lubricants, and by ensuring that you give yourself occasional breaks from using the pessary by taking it out overnight at least once a week. However, this can be difficult if your pessary has been fitted by a medical professional and requires them to remove it also.
The home-use pessary
There are many home-use pessaries available on the market; some made from body-friendly plastics; others resembeling tampons. Home-use pessaries can be just as effective as medical pessaries and can also be much more convenient. The biggest challenge is finding the one that's right for you but with so many brands offering starter packs for you to trial different sizes and styles to find your perfect fit, you can't go far wrong!
We love Contam pessaries; hugely popular in their native Germany, they feel familiar to your body in their tampon-like shape and material. They come in a variety of shapes that make it simple to find the right fit and size for you – from the classic tampon-shaped ‘Normal’ and ‘Duo’ that treat incontinence to the ‘Special’ and ‘Med’ varieties that can be used to apply lotions and lubricant internally to simultaneously treat vaginal atrophy. Even more severe cases of prolapse can be addressed with the cube shaped ‘Dice’ Contam. Contam have taken the concept of pessaries and really thought outside the box in what they offer.
Contam pessaries are easy to use yourself without the help of a doctor or nurse. The innovative material dramatically changes consistency after soaking. Soaking in water prior to insertion they are really comfortable to use as they soften up into an elastic texture that’s easy to insert; they can also be easily removed by pulling on the string just as you would with a tampon. Why not try one of our starter sets today and see what a pessary can do for you?