Vaginal pessaries or vaginal suppositories are oval-shaped tablets containing medicine that are inserted into the vagina. Once inserted, they dissolve and gradually release the active substance in the medicine.
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Why are vaginal pessaries used?
Vaginal pessaries for infections are very useful in certain cases. In fact, they’re the most effective option to treat microorganisms that generate vaginal problems.
Through this treatment, it’s possible to:
- Regulate the flow of vaginal fluids
- Normalise the colour and appearance of vaginal fluids
- Eliminate uncomfortable symptoms caused by candida (e.g. thrush)
Vaginal pessaries are often used to manage and treat vaginal infections caused by fungi and bacteria. Vaginal pessaries can also be used to strengthen the vagina’s natural pH. They’re particularly useful for treating the harmful side effects caused by some intimate hygiene products.
It is important to remember that the vagina is a place in which different types of naturally-occurring bacteria co-exist. They each play an important role in maintaing the acidic pH of the environment inside the vagina in order to prevent the spread of pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. nasty bacteria that causes or spreads disease). These microorganisms are mostly bacteria of the lactobacilli genus.
How are vaginal pessaries inserted?
A vaginal pessary is inserted just like a tampon and is very simple to do. Although, just like when you insert a tampon, it’s easier to do if you try and relax. Here’s a step-by-step guide to inserting a vaginal pessary:
- Wash your hands. The most important thing is to maintain good hygiene by washing your hands before getting started.
- Remove the pessary from its packaging. Some vaginal pessaries come with an applicator, making it easier to insert into the vagina.
- Position yourself just like you would if you were inserting a tampon. You might find this easier by sitting or squatting.
- Gently insert the pessary into the vagina. If you’re using a pessary with an applicator, remember that you will need to press it in order for the pessary to come out of the applicator. Once you’ve pressed it, slowly remove the applicator and check to make sure the pessary has been inserted.
- Wear a panty liner. The active substance that’s used to form most pessaries is a vegetable oil. Although harmless, this can cause that a small white stain to appear in your underwear. This is normal and nothing to worry about, but we recommend wearing a panty liner over the next 24 hours.
Vaginal pessaries are often sold over-the-counter to treat yeast infections. However, they are sometimes prescribed by a medical professional. If you have any trouble or concerns about inserting a vaginal pessary containing prescribed medication, such as antibiotics, it’s always best to speak to your GP or gynaecologist who can provide help and support.
Which infections are often treated using vaginal pessaries?
Bacterial vaginosis is a common type of bacterial infection caused by an imbalance in the bacteria that naturally occurs in the vagina. These are usually Gardnerella vaginalis, Mobiluncus, Mycoplasma or Bacteroides.
The most common symptoms of bacterial vaginosis are an unpleasant and particularly strong fishy odour in the vaginal discharge, watery discharge, itching or irritation when urinating.
Candidiasis (vaginal thrush)
Candidiasis, often referred to as vaginal thrush, is a type of yeast infection most commonly caused by the fungus Candida Albicans. Candida yeasts can be found in most normal, healthy human bodies, but they are carefully kept under control by the immune system and other microorganisms as they battle for space in the body.
Candidiasis is one of the most common vaginal infections and it can occur when there are significant changes in the vagina’s pH levels, such as an imbalance in the level of acidity. This causes a drop in the vagina’s natural defences. Its main symptoms are redness of the external areas surrounding the vagina, swelling, irritation as well as the presence of odourless white or yellowish vaginal discharge.
Trichomonas is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a tiny, protozoan-like parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It occurs when there is direct genital contact.
Trichomonas shares common symptoms with other vaginal infections, which can make it difficult to diagnose. The main symptoms are abnormally thick vaginal discharge, discomfort when urinating or having sex and visible inflammation of the vulva. Trichomonas affects both men and women.
Symptoms usually appear within a month of transmission, but may not appear in a noticeable way. Many do not develop symptoms at all but are still able to transmit the infection. This infection cannot go away without treatment. Treatment usually requires antibiotics in the form of vaginal pessaries.