An estimated one-third of all women experience it at some point and few are willing to talk about it, but urinary incontinence affects more than 15 million Americans and 1.5 million Canadians. Now, thanks to the innovative patent of a pelvic floor muscle trainer for at-home use, women can take control of the problem.
Professor Emeritus Ken Pinder (Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering) and School of Nursing PhD candidate Diane Sawchuck have developed a patent for a device used to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. It consists of a pneumatic bulb for insertion into the vagina, a series of pelvic floor strength training exercises, and a visual display for monitoring progress and offering biofeedback.
The invention is manufactured and marketed as Myself® by DesChutes Medical Products in Bend, Oregon. It is the first USFDA-approved, over-the-counter solution for improving female bladder control and is now available at pharmacies in the U.S., Canada and Europe and is also available online.
Although often underreported, urinary incontinence is extremely common, with 500,000 new cases reported annually. Bladder control problems range from stress incontinence (triggered by activities such as sneezing, laughing and coughing) to urge incontinence (a frequent sense of needing to urinate). Both can plague a woman of any age. Urinary incontinence most commonly affects women who are pregnant, mothers, menopausal, overweight, smokers and/or athletes.
An estimated US$20 billion (CAD$27.4 billion) is spent annually on surgery, prescription drugs and/or absorbent pads to manage urinary incontinence, a condition that can affect quality of life, often leading to social isolation. Despite the negative effects of urinary incontinence, only about half of those suffering from it have discussed it with their physician.
“It’s amazing the number of women who admit to me that they have stress incontinence when I speak about the device, even in social settings,” said Pinder. “I suggest they see their doctor, but they say they’ve been too embarrassed to bring it up with him.”
The Canadian Continence Foundation Clinical Practice Guideline for Adults states that pelvic muscle exercises are strongly recommended for women with urinary stress incontinence. Pelvic floor muscles can be strengthened like any other skeletal muscle -- with a series of flex and relax exercises (commonly known as Kegels). But unlike doing bicep curls, it can be difficult to perform pelvic floor exercises properly because you cannot see the muscles. Also, guidelines for how to do these exercises vary.
“After surveying many doctors, I found there was little consistency on whether Kegel exercises are recommended, and indeed the type of exercise program recommended,” said Sawchuk. “One advantage of using the Myself® pelvic muscle trainer is that it provides a series of exercise cycles and monitors progress.”