One in three women lives with bladder leaks caused by stress urinary incontinence (SUI). SUI is when you leak a little urine when pressure is applied to the bladder—like when you cough, laugh, or sneeze. As you age, your chances of developing SUI increase. The main cause is a lack of muscle tone and a weakened structure. And there is a simple solution: the pessary. Let’s explore the pessary.
A pessary is a medical prosthetic that helps to provide structure to the pelvic organs in an attempt to restore the natural shape for proper functioning. As you know—with age, everything starts sagging, and internal organs are no exception. A pessary is essentially a bra for your bladder organs.
These devices have an ancient history, originally made of wax and string until rubber was available in the 1800s. Today, the prosthetic is made of flexible, hypoallergenic material, such as silicone. To use it, a woman inserts the pessary into her vagina. If you search for images of pessaries, you’ll see that these devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
Pessaries aren’t just for sealing up bladder leaks. Pelvic organ prolapse warrants another common use for the devices. Since both conditions are caused by a gradual change in anatomy, a prosthetic that restores the original anatomy works. Furthermore, pessaries can even be used to administer medication.
There’s a reason for all that variety you see when looking at pessaries. Each unique shape is designed to support different pelvic organs. Here’s a rundown on the different shapes you might find, but not all of them are used for urinary incontinence:
Resembling a ring you would wear on your finger, the hole in this shaped pessary allows urine to flow through while wearing the device—on your terms. This type is not used for urinary leaks but works to support the internal organs near the cervix. Sometimes the center hole is covered with a thin layer of material with smaller holes.
A less often prescribed shape is the lever pessary. This one is used for correcting the positioning of a tilted uterus and resembles a caribiner.
A tiny saddle-looking pessary is the Gehrung version. It’s used in supporting the rectal and bladder anatomy and is inserted near the cervix.
Used for pelvic organ prolapse, Shaatz pessaries are shaped like a washer that has additional pinholes around the perimeter.
Cube pessaries look like small dice (like playing dice) with concave sides and a string attached. These are used for mild pelvic prolapse.
Severe pelvic organ prolapse requires the Gelhorn pessary, which resembles a kitchen sink strainer plug. The flat side rests against the cervix, with the protrusion facing the vaginal opening.
Inflatable pessaries can be used for mild conditions. The shape conforms to your body as you inflate it with a hand pump.
Other uniquely-shaped pessaries have been developed over the years. One example is Uresta, a pessary that is shaped like a small cylinder with nubs on the sides. The shape keeps the device in place and puts minor pressure on the urethra to prevent bladder leaks.
With so many different types of pessaries available, it can be challenging to pick the right type for your body and may require some trial and error. Let our doctors assist with the process by giving you our expertise and the tools to try out a pessary to see if it helps you with your stress urinary incontinence.
Once you and your doctor pick the right pessary to try, the first step is to get the right fit. With Uresta, our partner in managing urinary incontinence, there are five sizes available for you to try in a self-fitting at home. Other pessaries may require fitting inside a doctor’s office. Pessaries are inserted similarly to a tampon without an applicator or similar to a diaphragm.
With a proper fit, you will:
Patients can self-manage their use of the pessary. Read the instructions on how to insert and how long the pessary can remain in place, as well as cleaning steps. Some women choose to only use the pessary during workouts, while others wear it all day long and remove it before bed. Your pessary will need to be replaced every year or as directed.
If you’re living with annoying bladder leaks when you cough or put any pressure on your abdomen, you’re probably fed up with the nuisance. A pessary can allow you to return to a normal life, enjoying all of the activities that you once did. If you’re interested in trying Uresta or another pessary for stress urinary incontinence, reach out to our team today.