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Pears As Pessaries?

Vaginal pessaries come in all shapes and sizes. Generally speaking they support the area affected by pelvic organ prolapse by holding things up or filling in the space. If you’re looking for advice about which one to go for, I’m afraid this is not that. But if you’re curious about the imaginative and downright weird things people once used instead...then welcome!

A pear (Photo by Bence Balla-Schottner on Unsplash)

In Episode 8, Pop Club! we all had a good giggle at the idea of pears being used as pessaries at some point in history. I heard potatoes. Could any of it be true?

I had a little scout around and it turns out that treatments for pelvic organ prolapse through the ages have been even more bizarre than a smash and grab at the local greengrocers.

In ancient Egypt women were apparently rubbed with manure, honey and petrol. I have no idea why.

A thousand years later, the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates was using vinegar-soaked sponges as well as halved pomegranates to do the job. If that didn’t work, women were suspended upside down from their feet. Fun.

A pomegranate (Photo by Laura on Unsplash)

At the time it was thought the womb was some sort of living thing in its own right. So if things went south (or north, east or west for that matter), foul-smelling fumes or ummm...a red hot iron...were employed to frighten the wayward organ back to its rightful place. Yep.

Thankfully, by the 1600s pessaries had come into their own. Different shapes and sizes were developed. Fruit was replaced by a more durable waxed cork or hammered brass. Later, Wood, glass and porcelain had a run out too.

Pessaries: Wellcome Collection

The invention of rubber, then plastics and silicone brings us to where we are today. On a personal note I’ve tried a few silicone ring pessaries myself but am yet to find the perfect shape and size. I haven’t given up. If it’s something you’d like to try, speak to your doctor or physio.

As for pears and potatoes...maybe someone out there can enlighten us? In the meantime, don’t try this at home!

For a quick guide to vaginal pessaries, read this.

And for an in-depth guide, check out the new UK guidelines for patients and clinicians here.

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Links & resources

I've found it hard to find much in the way of support for people with pelvic floor dysfunction. Here are a few links I've pulled together.

The doodles

Cat Pearson is a doodler, designer and mum based in east London. After crying and laughing her way through Series One, Cat hooked up with Helen to help her bring more positive and honest stories to life through illustration.