Founder's Perspective: Lauren's Experience Trying to Get a Pessary
In early June 2021 (about 14 months postpartum), I reached out to my OBGYN provider to ask about getting a pessary. I sent a message saying, “My symptoms have gotten better over time since having my baby, but there are certain days or activities that make the symptoms worsen and I think a pessary would be a nice tool for me to have.”
The office administrator responded to my message to let me know the doctor who I regularly see didn’t do pessaries, but another doctor did and I could set up an appointment with her. They also encouraged me to check out pelvic floor physical therapists and recommended a couple in my area. Thankfully I already had a good relationship with a PFPT who had encouraged me to try a pessary if I was interested.
I was disappointed I had to see a new doctor. It can be difficult to establish a relationship with your healthcare provider because you spend so little time with them. I had hoped that I would get to talk with the person I was comfortable with and trusted. On the bright side, I was encouraged by the response I got when setting up the appointment. I was able to get an appointment with the provider that did pessaries in late June.
As far as how the appointment went, I will cut to the chase. The appointment did not go well. I walked into the small examination room and there were two large cases on the counter that were each about the size of a briefcase. They were pessary fitting sets with a large number of sizes and styles of pessaries. It was off to an intimidating start.
I started off the appointment by telling the doctor about my experience with prolapse so far and explained that I wanted to try a pessary to help manage my symptoms. The doctor’s bedside manner was abrupt and dismissive. She told me that my prolapse did not seem that bad, implied that pessaries were for older people, and essentially that it was not for me. She told me that she would start the process of fitting me for a pessary if I wanted to move forward. However, by that point I was so put off by the whole experience I was not about to let her begin fitting me for a pessary that she very clearly did not want me to get. I left the appointment telling her that I would think about what she told me and decide later. I was ready to do anything to get out of there as quickly as possible. I felt dismissed and discouraged, and I did not return to that practice.
This bad experience left me once again questioning what I wanted to do regarding my prolapse symptoms. At this point, I had multiple experiences with healthcare providers that dismissed me and did not provide the care I needed. I questioned whether I would be able to find the help I needed for my prolapse journey, which I knew I will be on for the rest of my life.
As of April 2023, I have not tried again to be fitted for a pessary although I am still interested in getting one. It feels like it is perceived as a progressive idea to have a pessary and use it as a tool to help manage your prolapse. There are so many stigmas and myths surrounding pessaries that it feels like it will take a long time to have better access to them for a large portion of the population that could benefit from one. Pessaries are an important tool and option for managing prolapse. I am hopeful that we can make progress towards making them available to more people.
I still feel discouraged by my experience. It highlights how hard having prolapse can be. I know how fortunate I am to have health insurance, access to healthcare, the ability to take time away from work, etc. and yet I still was not able to feel comfortable and confident and try a viable option to help manage my symptoms. This system has to change.