Women with pelvic organ prolapse are often provided several options for treatment, one of which is a pessary.
A pessary is a device that is placed into the vagina to help with the symptoms of prolapse and hopefully improve the condition.
There are side effects of pessaries, however. Vaginal dryness after using a pessary is one of those consequences.
What Is Prolapse?
Pelvic organ prolapse, or POP, is a condition in which a woman’s pelvic organs drop from their usual position. The uterus, bladder and/or rectum descend, sometimes into or out of the vagina, causing a bulge, pressure, and occasionally pain, along with problems with elimination, and an impact on sexual relations.
The risk factors and causes for prolapse include pregnancy and vaginal birth, higher body mass index (BMI), chronic coughing, chronic constipation and hysterectomies. Some studies estimate that up to 40% of women will experience prolapse in their lifetime. That number may increase as our population ages. 1
Depending on the type and severity of prolapse, there are options for treatment. Some cases are severe enough to require some type of surgery, which have high success rates. Others are treated in a less invasive manner, such as performing pelvic floor muscle or Kegel exercises. Another option is the insertion of a pessary.
What Is a Pessary?
A pessary is a device inserted into the vagina that supports the organs in the event of prolapse. It’s fitted by a medical professional as there are many different shapes and sizes to suit different women. 2
Studies have shown that pessaries may improve some of the longer-term symptoms of prolapse, as well as improve sexual function, compared with pelvic floor muscle training alone. Women have reported the use of a pessary as being an effective treatment option to manage symptoms of prolapse. 3
Once the pessary is inserted, you won’t be able to feel it and you should be able to resume normal activities, including sex. The pessary should be changed every three to six months, which can sometimes be done at home, or by a healthcare professional. 4 Be sure to get instructions on cleaning, removal and changing of your pessary.
What Are the Side Effects of a Pessary?
There are a number of side effects to watch for, some more serious than others. Vaginal bleeding, a urinary tract infection, or a foul odor are reasons to see a doctor. Vaginal dryness after using a pessary can also occur.
The symptoms of vaginal dryness include: 5
- feeling sore or itchy in and around your vagina
- feeling pain or discomfort during sex
Here are some suggestions to help with vaginal dryness: 5
- use unperfumed soaps and washes around your vagina
- ask your doctor about using a vaginal moisturizer
- use water-based lubricants before sex
- do not use creams or lotions like petroleum jelly, or moisturizers that are not for your vagina, as they could cause an infection
Many women with prolapse are also in menopause, which can cause a drop in estrogen levels and lead to vaginal dryness. 6 A doctor may prescribe a vaginal estrogen cream to apply inside your vagina while the pessary is out to prevent irritation. 2
Living With a Pessary
If you have been diagnosed, or you suspect you may have prolapse, remember that it is common and treatable. Don’t suffer in silence. There are options including use of a pessary, that can help with the symptoms and get you feeling better again.
Find a qualified physician near you who can diagnose and treat prolapse, and give you medical advice on the use and care of a pessary.