• narrative;
  • nurse–patient relationships;
  • nursing;
  • pelvic prolapse;
  • support;
  • urinary incontinence;
  • vaginal pessary;
  • women’s health


Title. Women’s experiences with vaginal pessary use.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study of the lived experiences of women using vaginal pessaries for the treatment of urinary incontinence (UI) and/or pelvic organ prolapse.

Background.  The use of a vaginal pessary offers a non-surgical treatment option to provide physical support to the bladder and internal organs. As the literature asserts, a woman’s choice to use a pessary is very individual and involves not only physical, but also psychological and emotional considerations.

Method.  Narrative inquiry was used to conduct face-to-face semi-structured interviews in 2007 with 11 postmenopausal women who accessed services from a Urogynecology Clinic in Eastern Canada.

Findings.  The women’s stories revealed that living with a pessary is a life-changing experience and an ongoing learning process. The women’s comfort level and confidence in caring for the device figured prominently in their experiences. Psychosocial support provided by the clinic nurses also played a primary role in the women’s experiences.

Conclusion.  Women and healthcare professionals need to be aware of the personal isolation and embarrassment, and social and cultural implications that urinary incontinence may cause as well as the subjective experiences of using a pessary. With appropriate support, vaginal pessaries can provide women with the freedom to lead active, engaged and social lives.