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Women's Health

Vaginal Foreign Bodies

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Symptoms of a Foreign Body in the Vagina

Common symptoms of a vaginal foreign body include the following:

  • Vaginal discharge, generally foul-smelling and yellow, pink, or brown
  • Vaginal bleeding, especially light bleeding
  • Vaginal itching or foul odor
  • Discomfort with urination
  • Discomfort due to vaginal discharge producing skin irritation
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain from placement of large objects or perforation of a foreign body into the abdominal cavity
  • Skin redness
  • Swelling of the vagina and its entrance
  • Rash in the vaginal area

The presence of a vaginal foreign body may alter the normal bacterial flora of the vagina, thus resulting in repeated efforts to treat "vaginitis." The symptoms of a vaginal discharge may be interpreted as vaginitis, a sexually transmitted infection or even a yeast infection. Repeated use of antibiotics or other medications will not remove the symptoms if a foreign body remains present.

Objects left in the vagina very rarely lead to serious complications. However, the medical literature has had several case reports of pelvic abscess and subsequent scarring.

When to Seek Medical Care

A health care provider should be consulted when any change in vaginal discharge is present, particularly discharge which is foul-smelling or abnormal in color. The presence of a foreign body may cause abnormal vaginal bleeding.

If a foreign object was placed in the vagina and may still be there, the health care provider should be informed. Occasionally, an adult or adolescent woman may remember placing a tampon, but then be unable to remove it from the vagina. 

Unusual objects may need to be removed using sedation or anesthesia in order to avoid pain. This may be particularly true of objects placed in the vagina of a small child or an adult who is unable to be cooperative with a vaginal exam. Some emergency departments allow sedation and removal in the emergency department without going to an operating room.

Exams and Tests for Vaginal Foreign Bodies

Vaginal foreign bodies are seen more commonly in children than in adolescent or adult women. Children may not be able to supply the history of an object placed in the vagina; however, some children will say that they have lost an object in their vagina. In addition to obtaining specific information about a possible vaginal foreign body, a health care provider will perform a general history and physical exam as well.

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