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How Do I Insert a Suppository?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are a couple of different ways to insert a suppository, and the specifics usually depend on the type of device at issue. The most common tend to be rectal, but there are also vaginal options available in some cases. Where rectal insertions are concerned, the easiest and most recommended method usually involves lying on your side and gently pushing the smaller end of the suppository with a single finger through the rectal opening and into the anus. Once it’s fully inside, you’ll want to tense your sphincter muscle to hold it in. You may need to reinsert your finger to reposition the suppository if it feels uncomfortable. Vaginal options usually work in about the same way, but you’ll want to insert the suppository directly into the vagina. In these cases it’s usually easiest to prop one leg up or sit with the legs spread and the back slightly arched, then push it into the vaginal opening with one finger. In both rectal and vaginal situations the whole thing will dissolve and absorb into your bloodstream, so there’s no need to remove it later. Most experts also recommend washing the hands thoroughly both before and after insertion, and wearing sterile gloves as an added precaution is usually advisable, too.

Basic Concept

Most suppositories are relatively small and typically have a slightly conical shape, with one end noticeably wider than the other. As a general rule you always want the narrower end to go in first. This both makes application easier and helps reduce friction and pain.

The main goal of most of these types of products is medication delivery. They usually provide direct and immediate absorption, and can be good choices for people who are too sick to swallow or keep down oral medications. Medications such as acetaminophen, given to reduce pain and fever, and anti-nausea medications are often available in suppository form, for instance.

They’re also popular for specially intestinal issues, such as constipation. Pediatricians often recommend glycerin suppositories for babies who are constipated and aren’t able to try diet-based or other natural remedies. Vaginal suppositories, similarly, are most common for the treatment of chronic yeast infections and vaginal irritation.

Safety and Cleanliness Concerns

Both the anus and the vagina are parts of the body rich in bacteria and, as mainly porous tissues, both are also prone to irritation from outside elements. Making sure that your hands are really clean before beginning is accordingly very important. Experts usually recommend washing with soap and hot water, and wearing sterile latex or other exam-style gloves can be an additional protection. Glove use is almost always recommended when inserting a suppository into another person. When you’re done, take care to wash your hands again to keep from spreading germs to whatever you touch next.

Lubrication

Some people find the application process somewhat painful, particularly if their tissues are dry and the suppository is firm. Some come with a lubrication gel coating the outside to make insertion easier, but using a water-based lubricant can be helpful too. In general medical professionals don’t recommend using petroleum jelly, since its thickness can change the way the needed medication absorbs.

Vaginal Suppositories

Suppositories are also commonly prescribed for use vaginally to treat infections or to provide lubrication for dry vaginal tissue. These are inserted in the same manner as tampons. In some women, vaginal suppositories can cause burning, inflammation, and itching. If the vaginal suppository is improperly inserted, pain and difficulty urinating can result. In fact, an improperly inserted vaginal suppository can cause a urinary tract infection, which will need to be evaluated by a health care professional.

Possible Side Effects

Suppositories usually work quickly and are an effective means of delivering relief, but there are some side effects and precautions to be aware of before getting started. People who suffer from chronic diarrhea or other gastrointestinal problems shouldn’t typically use suppositories, since they can worsen the symptoms and increase irritation. Occasionally a suppository will cause severe abdominal cramping, persistent diarrhea, and nausea. Although these side effects are generally rare, they can be quite serious. It’s usually a good idea to talk to your doctor right away if you feel any serious discomfort or have pain related to a suppository that doesn’t seem to go away on its own.

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Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Jan 10, 2013

People make a big deal over suppositories and they are the punchline in a lot of jokes, but they really aren't that big a deal. I think it makes it worse if you've got a bad illness and have to use them, because you feel more ashamed from the stigma.

It's the kind of thing where it just becomes another task once you get used to it.

By clintflint — On Jan 09, 2013

@pastanaga - I've heard that some people will use the yogurt in the same way as the suppository if they are particularly prone to infections.

But, the common sense rules are to eat well, wear loose, cotton underwear (not synthetics) and to try not to clean the inside of your vagina, just the outer bits.

It's self cleaning, it doesn't need help and you only end up killing all the good bacteria if you try, which is what leads to bad smells and the necessity of using suppositories.

By pastanaga — On Jan 09, 2013

It is really annoying when you have to use suppositories. I've only had to do it once, for a thrush infection, but I hope I never have to do it again. I found it to be almost as unpleasant as the disease, really itchy and uncomfortable.

I think thrush is probably the main reason women have to use suppositories and I just wanted to say that eating natural yogurt is a good way of balancing everything up, at least in my experience. You don't need to buy the fancy kinds, even the cheaper ones are just as good for you as long as you make sure they say it's a live culture on them.

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