Designers and tech innovators are finally heeding the calls of women fed up with bladder leaks. Absorbent underwear, high-tech trainers, vibrating magnet chairs, and wearable devices are here to help with bladder leaking woes. The current incontinence design renaissance means that you no longer need to suffer bladder leaks in shame and silence. Instead, being an early adapter of these new urinary incontinence gadgets can help you start living your life more comfortably and with more confidence.
What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary incontinence happens when you leak urine unintentionally. There are two main categories of urinary incontinence. Many women experience both (called mixed urinary continence).
- Stress incontinence (SUI) is that spurt of urine you leak involuntarily when you unexpectedly laugh, sneeze, cough, or jump. One of the most common causes of SUI is a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles are the layer of muscles that support pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. Pregnancy, childbirth, perimenopausal transition, and age-related changes can all weaken the pelvic floor.
Strong pelvic floor muscles give you control over your bladder, while weakened pelvic floor muscles could mean that your internal organs are not fully supported and affect how you control the release of urine.
2. Urge incontinence is the leaking of urine before making it to the restroom or feeling like you suddenly need to pee, even though your bladder is nearly empty. Nerve damage during pregnancy or childbirth can impair the bladder’s ability to communicate with your brain.
Don’t wait to seek help.
Urinary incontinence is extremely common, and yet we don’t talk about it nearly enough. It can help to know you are not alone.
Stress urinary incontinence affects an estimated 15 million adult women in the US and is the most common form of urinary incontinence in women. Approximately 1 out of 3 women over 45 and 1 out of every two women over 65 have stress urinary incontinence. In addition, an estimated 12.2 million US adults have urge incontinence.
On average, women wait 6.5 years from the first time they experience symptoms until they obtain a diagnosis for their bladder control problem.
It is important to see your GYN provider to discuss your incontinence and for a pelvic exam if you are leaking urine. They can then better understand the problem and help you. Depending on your symptoms and your medical history, one product or type of therapy might be better for you. They should also refer you for pelvic floor physical therapy.
What’s New In the World of Urinary Incontinence Gadgets?
A lot is new. That is why this list is by no means comprehensive. Instead, it offers a sampling of some of the latest gadgets. Products were independently selected and reviewed. No compensation will be received from company links. Remember to do your research before choosing which to take for a test run.
Susan Ramsey PT, MA, a holistic pelvic floor physical therapist with over 30 years of experience treating urinary incontinence, is emphatic about the importance of having an initial evaluation for your incontinence:
The most important thing women can do is have a pelvic floor evaluation- even one session to check that you are using your pelvic floor muscles correctly. We can help advise you which of these devices might work best for you.
So, once you have consulted with your OBGYN or a pelvic floor physical therapist, here are some of the latest urinary incontinence gadgets for you to check out:
This shield-like sticker looks mini paper airplane made out of white foam. It does not absorb urine like a pad. Instead, it attaches with a “hydro-seal adhesive” to covers the external opening to your bladder and block leaking urine. Finess works for women who can plan ahead for high-risk leak activities or events like going for a run, to a comedy show, or a trampoline park with their children. Finess’s cost per use is approximately $1.00 per shield.
- No external wetness or odor
- No bulky or soggy incontinence pads
- Easier to use – does not need to be inserted into the vagina
- Can be ordered online through Target or Finess store
- Hydroseal adhesive could be irritating to the urethral opening or uncomfortable to remove
- Only works for light to moderate stress incontinence. Does not help women with urge incontinence
- Good for only single-use; must be removed if you need to urinate while wearing and can’t be reused
- Can’t wear during sex, bathing, or swimming
Poise Impressa offers women with stress urinary incontinence (SUI) a temporary reduction in leakage. Inserted into your vagina with a tampon applicator, Impressa supports your urethra with pressure applied through your vaginal wall. Imagine that your bladder is like a vase full of water laying on its side. Impressa helps tilt that vase (your urethra and bladder) upward so that urine is less likely to spill out if you cough, sneeze, laugh, or jump. Slightly more expensive per use than Finess, Impressa costs approximately $1.86 per supporter.
Poise Impressa Advantages
- Comes with an applicator to help you insert to the correct location
- Can be ordered online
- No prescription or special fitting needed. The Impressa Sizing Kit ($7.00) allows you to figure out which of the three available sizes stops your leaks the best.
- It can be worn for up to 12 hours, during urination and bowel movements
Poise Impressa Disadvantages
- Must insert into your vagina
- It cannot be worn when you have your period
- Does not work for urge incontinence
Using the same technology in an MRI (tiny magnets), this high-tech chair offers a non-invasive, painless way to potentially strengthen and exercise your pelvic floor without having to do a single Kegel. Exposure to the deeply penetrating but painless electromagnetic fields stimulates your pelvic floor muscles and causes them to contract. A half-an-hour session spent just sitting still in the Emsella chair reportedly delivers the equivalent of 11,280 Kegel exercises. OBGYN Lisa Parsons provides her patients Emsella because she feels it is important to offer a treatment option for people who are not good candidates for physical therapy or who want an non-invasive alternative:
While not for everyone, Emsella is a quick, easy and painless way for many of my patients to stay drier. It works great for postpartum moms who have sensory loss after their delivery.
- Strengthens the entire pelvic floor and improves sensation
- Non-invasive and not painful (women report experiencing a tingling)
- Can leak less without pelvic floor physical therapy or Kegels (although both will extend how Emsella’s helps keep you dry)
- Able to keep your clothes on for the therapy session.
- Works for both male and female incontinence
- Expensive. It is not covered by insurance. The typical cost of treatment is $3,000-$5,000 for eight treatments or about $300 per treatment for annual maintenance.
- Time-consuming. Requires you to go to your provider’s office and sit for 30 minutes, twice a week for about 4-6 weeks.
- It can’t be used with a copper IUD, cardiac defibrillators or pacemakers, or other metal in your body. If you have had a hip or knee replacement, it is most likely safe to use Emsella, but check with your provider.
- Not a permanent fix. Providers recommend maintenance sessions once a year, although this has not been clinically proven.
- Lack of clinical data and large randomized controlled trials to support the Emsella chair’s effectiveness, particularly for different types of incontinence.
We find ways to use other muscles to cheat on our abdominal crunches. The same is true for Kegels- often, we squeeze our buttocks as our pelvic floor muscles fatigue. Using biofeedback technology, Elvie coaches you through your Kegels, monitoring the force and direction of your contraction. Think of Elvie as a Fitbit for your pelvic floor. When you connect it to your smartphone with a special app, you can come closer to doing your Kegels correctly and follow a workout plan specially designed for your pelvic floor.
- It comes with a workout guide designed for four different intensities
- No physical therapy appointments or copays
- Waterproof so can be used in the shower or bath
- Strengthening your pelvic floor reportedly also increases the duration and intensity of orgasms
- Must be inserted into your vagina
- May need to use a water-based, glycerin-free lubricant to make insertion more comfortable
- It still requires you to commit to a regular Kegel exercise routine
- You can still cheat. It’s possible to squeeze the wrong muscles and still get positive feedback from Elvie.
- Must have a smartphone and download an app to use.
Speax by Thinx ($35/pair)
They revolutionized period panties, so why not do the same for incontinence diapers and pads? The intelligent designers at Thinx and many other companies now provide multiple (dare I say sexy) options for washable, reusable incontinence underwear that can hold up to 8 teaspoons of urine. So if you don’t like the idea of remembering to insert a pad in your underwear every day, then a pair of these fancy panties could work for you.
These hotshot panties are made out of high-tech fabrics that are absorbent, breathable, moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and even waterproof in some versions. In addition, eco-friendly companies like Hestra fabricated washable bladder pads and underwear from organic cotton to reduce the risk of sensitivity and irritation. Reusable incontinence underwear might not work for everyone, but the newer designs are more fashionable, comfortable, and earth-friendly for women with light to heavier incontinence.
- More discrete than pads
- Washable and reusable (with gentle detergent, may last up to 6 years)
- Wallet-friendly (cheaper than disposable incontinence pads over time)
- Work for women with light-heavy stress urinary incontinence, urge incontinence, and mixed incontinence.
- It can also be used for your periods
- Don’t do anything to strengthen your pelvic floor or stop you from leaking urine
- Can still have some wetness, odor, or vulvar irritation
- It May be visible when wearing body-conscious clothing or workout leggings
Which Urinary Incontinence Gadget Is Best For You?
Ideally, you are already working with a pelvic floor physical therapist or your gyno to address your leaking. They can help tell you what might work best depending on the extent and type of your incontinence. If you are also experiencing pelvic pain or pain with sex, talk with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a Kegel exercise routine. Some factors to consider include when debating which to try include:
- How much do you leak, and when do you most commonly leak?
- What type of incontinence do you have if you have a diagnosis?
- How much of a financial commitment can you make?
- How much of a time commitment can you make?
- Are you a techie or gadget person?
Don’t Give Up On Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy.
Despite the debut of these exciting urinary incontinence gadgets, don’t forget that physical therapy is still your best option for staying dry for the long term. You can get the most out of your investment in these products when you know how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly and what kind of product can help you the most.
Women are going to have the best outcomes when they learn when to use their pelvic floor muscles and how to use their pelvic floor muscles. These technologies are not a substitute for strengthening your muscles.
-Susan Ramsey, Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist
It’s Your Time!
Urinary incontinence is a problem we could all live without, but most of us are not so lucky. Given how many women suffer in silence with urinary incontinence, it is surprising that it has taken this long to come up with a selection of urinary incontinence gadgets to help us all worry less about leaking. So take advantage of what today’s newest technology offers in the way of improved incontinence care. It is time to enjoy living your life more fully.
Have you tried one of these urinary incontinence gadgets? Would you recommend it? Tell us about your experience (or your clients’ success stories) in the comments below.