What is a prolapse?
Prolapse is a condition characterised by weakness or loss of integrity of the support systems within the pelvis which normally maintain the position of the pelvic organs high within the pelvic cavity. This weakness can be caused by various events such as childbirth, chronic heavy lifting/coughing/straining, obesity or as part of the natural process of aging. Prolapse is a common condition, and affects up to 50% of women throughout their lifetime.
If you are suffering from pelvic organ prolapse then possible symptoms you may experience include:
- Feelings of dragging or heaviness in the lower back or vagina;
- Lump, bulge or sensation of fullness in the vagina;
- Difficulties in emptying your bladder, sometimes leading to increased frequency of urination, slow urine stream and recurrent urinary tract infections;
- Bladder leakage (this may occur when you have an urge to empty your bladder or can also take place on effort e.g. coughing, sneezing and physical activity).
What is a vaginal pessary?
A vaginal pessary is a silicone device used to support the vaginal walls and/or uterus. There are many different types and your gynaecologist or physiotherapist who is trained in fitting pessaries will discuss with you the best type for your individual circumstance. Most vaginal pessaries are very easy to use, low cost, and have been proven to be as successful as surgery in relieving many women’s prolapse symptoms.
How does a pessary work?
A vaginal pessary sits high inside the vagina and when positioned correctly, should not be felt by the woman during her normal everyday activities. The pessary should improve her ability to be more active without fear of making her prolapse worse.
If a woman feels that the pessary is not helpful then it is easy to remove and there will be no long term side effects.
How is a pessary inserted?
A pessary can be inserted at an appointment with your gynaecologist or physiotherapist and there is no anaesthetic required. It is easily inserted into the vagina and many can be removed and reinserted independently at home for cleaning. This will be taught to you by your trained health professional.
Are there any risks?
Very rarely a pessary may cause ulcers or bleeding from pressure areas inside the vagina. For this reason it is important that you make time to see your gynaecologist every six months to have the vaginal tissues checked and pessary changed if unable to do so independently. When using a pessary you must ensure you inform your doctor if you notice any unusual bleeding. Postmenopausal women using pessaries are usually advised to use a vaginal oestrogen cream in addition to the pessary to strengthen the tissues and reduce the risk of this complication.
Be reassured, there is no risk of the pessary being lost inside the vagina.
Interested in more information?
Get in touch with us to make an appointment today with one of our gynaecologists or women’s health physiotherapists.