You may have heard of Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)—the release of urine during everyday activities such as laughing, coughing, lifting and exercising—and, if you’re a woman, you may even suffer from it. In fact, a new survey released by women’s health company Uresta shows that 76% of women who suffer from SUI experience bladder leaks at least a few times a week, causing embarrassment, anxiety and depression due to odour, people noticing, feeling unclean and the unpredictability of their leaks. This deters most women from social and physical activities such as events, traveling, or exercising. Fortunately, there is a modern and innovative solution; Lauren Barker is the CEO of Uresta, a company that creates game-changing bladder-support products specially designed for SUI sufferers. We spoke with Lauren to find out more, and learned a great deal about SUI—and its treatment—that we were not aware of before. —Vita Daily
Hi Lauren; what is stress urinary incontinence (SUI)?
Stress urinary incontinence for women occurs when the pelvic floor muscles that support the urethra and urinary sphincter (the muscle that controls the release of urine) have weakened. As a result, under moments of extra pressure these muscles involuntarily release urine. The best analogy is to think of your bladder like a filled balloon inside of your lower abdomen with the stem and opening pointing down. For this analogy, the balloon is your bladder and the stem and opening of the balloon are your urethra. A woman with SUI does not have enough muscle force to keep the stem of the balloon closed during moments of extra pressure like coughing, sneezing, jumping, etc. SUI is very common—it impacts 1 in 3 women after age 30 and as many as 1 in 2 by time of menopause.
Why do women get SUI?
The most common contributors to the weakening of pelvic floor muscles are:
- Childbirth: tissue or nerve damage that is caused during childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor muscles or the sphincter. SUI may develop soon after delivery or occur years later.
- Age: as we get older our muscles weaken and our pelvic floor muscles are no different.
- Menopause: the drop in estrogen during menopause causes women’s pelvic tissue and organs to change and can contribute or cause SUI.
- Body Weight: carrying excess weight can put extra pressure on the bladder that can contribute to the issue.
What is the typical treatment for SUI? Is there a prescription (i.e., a pill) one can take?
SUI can’t be treated via medication as it is a muscle issue. There are some lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles (think kegels!). Unfortunately for many women, they cannot fully resolve or eliminate their leaks and need to find a way to manage them. A majority of women (over 65%) are managing their leaks using disposable pads, which isn’t really solving the issue as its just absorbs the leaks. As a result, many women have anxiety around odour and feeling unclean. In terms of medical intervention, there are devices called pessaries, which are small firm objects that are inserted into the vagina by a physician and provide extra support to the urethra to stop leaks. While often effective, it is difficult or sometimes impossible for a women to remove a pessary herself. These devices can stay in the body for up to 3 months, and require quarterly visits to their physician. A major downside is that the devices can also become dislodged, which impacts effectiveness and level of comfort, and sexual intercourse can be discouraged. On the extreme end, surgery does remain an option, however the surgeries have a relatively high failure rate compared to other types of surgery and often have to be repeated after 5+ years. These surgeries are intrusive, painful and require a long recovery period for most women.
I truly believe Uresta is one of the best-kept secrets in women’s health, but more and more women are trying Uresta every day and are telling their friends and family about it!
What is Uresta and why is it different?
Uresta is a simple-yet-innovative solution that was developed by a Canadian urogynecologist who wanted to find a solution for women that was non-invasive, accessible and completely self-managed by the women. Uresta is inserted into the vagina and its bell-shape presses against the urethra to provide additional support during those moments of extra pressure. It is made of medical grade resin and is safe to be in the body for a full day. Some women use the device all day or just when they need it, like exercising. The handle makes it very easy to take in and out—a similar process to a menstrual cup. Uresta is reusable for 1 year and is washed with soap and water. In many ways, Uresta functions like a prescription-based pessary (as described above). However the handle makes it easy for a woman to take in and out herself, as a result Uresta is sold over-the-counter. The starter kit comes with 3 different sizes so you can find your perfect fit. When properly fitted you shouldn’t feel it and should be able to urinate normally when inserted. We’ve had many women tell us that Uresta has been prevented or stopped them from needing surgery to address their SUI. I truly believe Uresta is one of the best-kept secrets in women’s health, but more and more women are trying Uresta every day and are telling their friends and family about it!
Are the effects of Uresta felt immediately?
What is great about Uresta is that it can provide immediate support and relief of leaks. For 86% of women using Uresta they saw a significant reduction in their leaks and 64% were completely dry. Uresta can be a great compliment to pelvic floor physiotherapy or kegels, we have many pelvic floor physiotherapists recommending our product. I like to think of Uresta as an ankle brace for your bladder: imagine you sprained your ankle and you started wearing a brace and doing exercises to strengthen your ankle. Over time your ankle may strengthen to the point you can stop wearing your brace, or maybe you still need to wear the brace while working out. Uresta and pelvic floor strengthening is no different—Uresta can provide immediate support as you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and you may or not be able to stop using Uresta after strengthening the pelvic floor.
Why is SUI a quality of life issue?
Many women have anxiety around other people noticing they have had a leak or that others may be able to smell a urine odour. I’ve had many women tell me that they are very self-conscious, especially in close social settings, like an airplane, about their leaks. Bladder leaks can also be very unpredictable—you never know when you might have a big sneeze, start coughing or need to walk or run quickly. It’s like a cloud that follows you around each and every day. In that regard, SUI is both a physical and mental health issue. I’ve had women tell me that they refrain from trying new things due to the unpredictability of their leaks. It unfortunately holds women back from doing the things they love the most whether its playing with their kids or grandkids, trying a new dance class or going for a run. The ultimate goal of Uresta is to allow women to live life to the fullest, without needing to think or worry about their leaks. This is something we are truly passionate about.
The ultimate goal of Uresta is to allow women to live life to the fullest, without needing to think or worry about their leaks. This is something we are truly passionate about.
Why do women not talk about this topic if so many suffer from SUI?
SUI is very common, impacting 1 in 3 women after age 30. However, despite how common it is, we know from talking to women only 50% of women are talking to their doctor or family about this condition. This really speaks to the unfortunate taboo that has developed around SUI. Evidently the idea of leaking urine is embarrassing. I think for many women it is loss of control over their leaks and not knowing when the next leak will hit and if they will be prepared. This is why Uresta is a great solution for women, as it actually stops the leaks and all the anxiety that comes with that. We hear from so many women that prior to Uresta their leaks dictated their life and that Uresta gave them their life back. I also think that many women assume this is a much older women’s issue and many women in their 30s and 40s are particularly embarrassed of their leaks. For many women their leaks are a constant reminder of getting older—which nobody likes. The good news is that we are starting to see change. Women are beginning to open up more about their health and are beginning to demand better solutions. We see this happening all over the place: menstrual care, pre/post-natal solutions, sexual health, etc. It’s amazing, after decades of underinvestment and lack of innovation, we are starting to see an evolution. As a women-owned-and-led business, we want to be leading that conversation as it relates to female incontinence.
Why do we think SUI only happen to older women?
Part of it is the narrative that other brands have painted in the marketing landscape—it tends to show maybe older women or maybe it makes women feel like this is only an issue for women that have had children. There are many women that have not had children that experience this issue. Many women identify this condition as their “mommy bladder,” which can be very isolating for the many women who struggle with SUI that haven’t had children. I also think that high-impact physical activity in women is becoming much more prevalent, especially in younger women. Majority of our younger users are heavily into fitness routines like running, cross fit, weightlifting or plyometrics. As a result they are experiencing their leaks much more frequently and to a higher intensity due to the pressure these exercises put on the bladder. We want to let women know that SUI is not a “seniors” issue; it can happen to all women regardless of age and this is something we try and reflect in our brand and in our messaging. We want women to realize that managing SUI doesn’t mean wearing bulky pads or diapers. Uresta allows you to hit the gym, travel, go-out with friends, wear the clothes you want and be yourself.
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