Innovative Incontinence Gadgets for Pregnancy and Postpartum

Designers and innovators are finally heading the calls of pregnant and postpartum women fed up with bladder leaks. From underwear, high-tech trainers, to apps, women of all ages and with all types of urinary incontinence (the medical term of leaking urine unintentionally) have options. The incontinence design renaissance means that women like you no longer need to suffer urine leaks and wetness in shame and silence. Trying out some combination of the available products and technology could help you leak less and enjoy your pregnancy and fourth trimester more.

What is Postpartum Incontinence?

Involuntary leaking of urine is a common pregnancy complaint for many women. Leaking can continue after delivery for many women. There are two main categories of postpartum incontinence. Many women experience both, especially if they experienced birth trauma at the time of delivery.

  1. Stress incontinence happens when urine leaks due to an increased pressure or stress in the body acting on your pelvic floor. This is the kind of incontinence that happens after you cough, sneeze, jump or laugh. It can be caused by a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles, as commonly happens during and after pregnancy.
  2. Urge Incontinence can be caused by nerve damage while pregnant or delivering. Communication between your bladder and your brain basically goes haywire such that your bladder may signal a need to use the restroom too soon or too often. Women with urge incontinence may suddenly feel like they’ve “got to go”, even when their bladders are nearly empty. The onset of these feelings may be quick and intense, and leaks may happen before you can make it to the restroom.

How to Cope With Postpartum Incontinence

It can be incredibly stressful, upsetting, and frustrating to deal with bladder leaks on top of everything else you are adjusting to postpartum. Take a deep breath and consider that:

  1. You are not alone. Somewhere between 30-60% of moms experience incontinence during pregnancy. One-third of women who have vaginal deliveries experience urge incontinence. Talking about your frustrations with other new moms can help you feel less ashamed.
  2. Postpartum incontinence improves or goes away completely with time. Two out of every three women experiencing postpartum incontinence after vaginal delivery have a resolution of their symptoms by the end of their baby’s first year of life.
  3. Help is available. Talk with your childbirth provider about your incontinence and they can refer you for pelvic floor therapy and if some of the new incontinence products could help you have a drier fourth trimester.

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. 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 on which of these devices might work best for you.”

Don’t wait to seek help. 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 have your childbirth provider do an exam if you are leaking urine to better understand and help 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:

Squeezy ($2.99 App Available for AppleWatch, iPhone and Android)

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) developed this easy-to-use app to help motivate and remind you to do your Kegels. Winner of multiple awards, this app is customizable and designed to work hand and hand with your physical therapy exercise routine if you already have one.

Squeezy Advantages:

  • Affordable
  • Educational- helpful even for women you have not yet received pelvic floor physical therapy
  • Can use anywhere and anytime

Squeezy Disadvantages:

  • Need a smartphone and to download the app, must be somewhat tech savvy
  • App can not tell you if you are doing your pelvic floor exercises correctly
  • For women with pelvic pain, strengthening the pelvic floor can sometimes make pain worse, not better

Finess ($1.00 per shield)

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 Advantages:

  • 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

Finess Disadvantages:

  • Hydroseal adhesive could be uncomfortable to “unstick”
  • Does not help those women with urge incontinence
  • Single-use only – Must be removed if you need to urinate while wearing and can’t be replaced.
  • Can’t wear during sex, bathing, or swimming

Poise Impressa Bladder Support Device ($1.86 per supporter)

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.

Impressa Advantages:

  • Discrete
  • Comes with an applicator to help you insert to the right location
  • Can be ordered online to avoid grocery checkout line embarrassment
  • No prescription or special fitting is needed. Recommend purchasing the Impressa Sizing Kit ($7.00) to figure out which size stops your leaks the best.
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours
  • Can be worn when urinating or having a bowel movement

Impressa Disadvantages:

  • Must be inserted into your vagina, not comfortable or possible for all women
  • Can not be worn when you have your period
  • Does not help women with urge incontinence or mixed incontinence

Emsella Electromagnetic Therapy Chair ($300 per treatment)

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 a 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 a sensory loss after their delivery.”

Emsella Advantages:

  • Treats the Entire Pelvic Floor
  • Non-Invasive
  • Don’t have to do Kegels or other Pelvic Floor Exercises (although doing so will extend how long treatment effects last)
  • Not painful
  • Able to keep your clothes on for therapy

Emsella Disadvantages:

  • Not covered by insurance. $3,000-$5,000 for initial treatment series.
  • Time-consuming. Requires you to go to your provider’s office and sit for 30 minutes, twice a week for about 6 weeks.
  • Can’t use if you have a copper IUD, cardiac defibrillators or pacemakers, or other metal in your body.
  • 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 Emsella’s efficacy.
  • Can’t use during pregnancy.

Elvie Kegel Exerciser Trainer ($199)

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.

Elvie’s Advantages:

  • 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

Elvie’s Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • 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 we 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.

Speax Advantages:

  • More discrete than pads
  • Washable and reusable (with gentle detergent, may last up to 6 years)
  • Earth-friendly
  • Wallet-friendly (cheaper than disposable incontinence pads over time)
  • Work for women with light-heavy stress urinary incontinence, urge incontinence, and mixed incontinence.
  • They can also be used for your periods

Speax Disadvantages:

  • Doesn’t help strengthen your pelvic floor or stop you from leaking urine
  • Can still have some wetness, odor, or vulvar irritation
  • They may be visible when wearing body-conscious clothing or workout leggings

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.

It’s About Time!

More than half of women report some kind of incontinence after delivery. Pregnancy or postpartum 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 you 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 motherhood more completely.

Have you tried one of these urinary incontinence gadgets? Would you recommend it? Tell The Pulse about your experience in the comments below.

Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a certified nurse-midwife with a Master's Degree in Maternal and Child Health from Harvard Chan School of Public Health. Her passions are health literacy and women's reproductive health. A recent two-year sabbatical with her family in Spain was the impetus for becoming a freelance women's health writer. An exercise nut, she is happiest outdoors and on adventures abroad.

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