What is a pessary for urinary incontinence in women?

For centuries, women have used a device called a pessary, placed inside the vagina in a manner similar to a contraceptive diaphragm. A pessary is designed to hold a prolapsed bladder or uterus in place (prolapsed means that it has dropped out of its normal position); in the process, sometimes it can help prevent urine leakage. Although it sounds old-fashioned and doesn't actually repair the problem, a pessary can mimic the benefit of surgery for prolapse or a surgical bladder neck suspension and is a very practical solution for some women with prolapse or stress incontinence. (prolapse does not cause stress incontinence!)

Pessaries are usually ring- or dish-shaped and are available only through a physician or other health care provider. The pessary must be fitted by your health care provider to support the bladder neck properly when it is inserted. Patients can learn how to “self-manage” their pessary -- they can learn to remove and replace the pessary themselves.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.