What is a vaginal pessary and how does it affect sexual health?
A vaginal pessary is a small, plastic device that supports a woman’s pelvic organs (the uterus, cervix, vagina, bladder, urethra, small intestines, and rectum).
Typically, these organs are held in place by the pelvic floor muscles with the help of connective tissue called fascia. But sometimes, these muscles weaken and one of the organs partially “falls” into the vagina. This is called pelvic organ prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse may occur after childbirth or pelvic surgery. It can also happen as a woman ages. Symptoms may include lower back pain, abdominal discomfort, or a feeling that there is a bulge/lump in the vagina.
- A vaginal pessary is one way to keep the pelvic organs in place. The device is placed high in the vagina and, when fitted correctly, it should be comfortable and not cause pain or any disturbance.
- Pessaries may be left in place for several months. Some types need to be inserted, removed, and cleaned by a health care professional. With other pessaries, the woman may do this on her own.
- Many types of pessaries can be left in place within the vagina during intercourse. However, some women prefer to remove theirs beforehand. Often, this is their partner’s preference, although many partners don’t even notice it.
- Research has shown that having a vaginal pessary doesn’t affect a woman’s sexual function. Many women find that their satisfaction, arousal, and ability to reach orgasm don’t change. Some may even become more confident about their body image.
- A woman may experience mild vaginal irritation when using a pessary. If that happens, she should see her health care professional, who may recommend a topical hormonal cream such as an estrogen cream, an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer, or lubricant.
It’s important to note that not all pessaries can be worn during intercourse. Women should always check with their health care professional first.