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Pessary: Care Instructions

Gellhorn and doughnut pessaries, and an inserted doughnut pessary


A pessary is a device that fits into your vagina and supports the pelvic organs. It may be used if a pelvic organ moves out of its normal position (prolapse). For some, wearing a pessary means that they may not need to have surgery to fix a prolapse. A pessary may also be used to help treat stress urinary incontinence.

There are many sizes and types of pessaries. Which type you use depends on the problem you have. Your doctor will make sure the pessary is just right for you. You may need to try different kinds to find the best fit. The pessary should hold the pelvic organs in place without causing pain or pressure. You may be able to have vaginal sex with your pessary in place. It depends on the type of pessary and your comfort level.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If you get a vaginal discharge while you have a pessary, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the discharge and smell. A pessary, in some cases, rubs the vagina and may cause irritation and discharge. If your vagina feels sore, talk to your doctor about a cream or gel to protect the vagina. Your doctor may also change the type of pessary.
  • Follow your doctor's advice on how long you can wear your pessary before it needs to be cleaned. You may be able to remove and clean it yourself. Or your doctor may want to do this during an office visit. Your doctor may tell you to leave the pessary out for a specific length of time after cleaning it.
  • If you clean your pessary, wash it with mild soap and water. Follow your doctor's advice on inserting the pessary.
  • Do not douche or use a vaginal wash unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Do not smoke. Smoking can cause a cough, which makes a prolapse worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

To help support your pelvic organs

  • Avoid activities that put pressure on your pelvic muscles, such as heavy lifting.
  • Try pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises, which tighten and strengthen pelvic muscles. (If doing these exercises causes pain, stop doing them and talk with your doctor.) To do Kegel exercises:
    • Squeeze your muscles as if you were trying not to pass gas. Or squeeze your muscles as if you were stopping the flow of urine. Your belly, legs, and buttocks shouldn't move.
    • Hold the squeeze for 3 seconds, then relax for 5 to 10 seconds.
    • Start with 3 seconds, then add 1 second each week until you are able to squeeze for 10 seconds.
    • Repeat the exercise 10 times a session. Do 3 to 8 sessions a day.
  • To ease pressure on your vagina, lie down and put a pillow under your knees. You also can lie on your side and bring your knees up to your chest.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have vaginal discharge that has increased in amount or smells bad.
  • You have new or worse belly or pelvic pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have problems with the pessary, such as vaginal pain, vaginal bleeding, or problems with urination or bowel movements.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.