If you have experienced (or are currently experiencing) light bladder leaks, you have most certainly looked for solutions to keep you dry and maintain your day-to-day lifestyle. Any quick search on the Internet for incontinence products will provide you with overwhelming information on pads, liners, surgeries, medications, and even injections which are all on the market for purchase or by prescription. Pelvic floor exercises are also commonly recommended to help people with light bladder leaks. With “holistic” and “natural” solutions becoming more popular than medications or surgeries, it’s not hard to believe that women’s health companies have jumped at the chance to bring consumers a different solution for their incontinence. These kinds of products can be as simple as a jade egg to a specially shaped electric device that connects to your phone, and they usually come at a hefty price. Are these kinds of products even worth it?
What are Kegels?
Let’s talk pelvic floor and kegels. Your pelvic floor is “the layer of muscles that support the pelvic organs and span the bottom of the pelvis. The pelvic organs are the bladder and bowel in men, and bladder, bowel and uterus in women.” Certain events and medical conditions can weaken or damage the pelvic floor, which may be what is causing your light bladder leaks. Women who have given birth, smokers, obese people, and those who have undergone a surgical procedure that interferes with, or involves, the pelvic floor, are more likely to develop light bladder leaks. Like any muscle group, to restrengthen and restore the weak pelvic floor muscles, exercise and patience is vital. To hone in and really work these muscles, kegel exercises are usually recommended. To properly perform a kegel, the Mayo Clinic suggests the following:
- Find the right muscles – To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles you can do the exercises in any position, although you might find it easiest to do them lying down at first.
- Perfect your technique – To do kegels, imagine you are sitting on a marble and tighten your pelvic muscles as if you’re lifting the marble. Try it for three seconds at a time, then relax for a count of three.
- Maintain your focus – For best results, focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.
- Repeat three times a day – Aim for at least three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions a day. Over time, just like any other workout, you should see (and feel!) the results.
Types of Kegel Products
There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of products and devices that promise to make the kegel simple and effective every time. Not every device’s intended goal is to help with urinary incontinence either (kegels are also recommended to improve sexual health), making it hard to wade through the saturated kegel device market. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular kinds:
Elvie – Elvie is a silicone egg-shaped device that has sensors to distinguish what muscles are contracting when placed inside the vaginal tract. The device connects to an app on your phone that tracks your training. This nifty device will run you about $200, however, and certainly collects a lot of data on the individuals using it.
KegelSmart – KegelSmart is like the Elvie device without the need to connect to an app, as a light on the device itself will indicate when your workout is done and what level you’re on. Unlike most kegel trainers or devices, the KegelSmart is marketed for reducing bladder leaks, not improving sexual health. The KegelSmart also runs for around $100.
Yoni Eggs – Ah, yes the Yoni egg. This egg-shaped semi-precious stone (yes, stone!) is placed in the vagina to help restore the pelvic floor muscles. According to Yoni Egg, “Empresses and concubines of the Royal Palace of China used eggs carved out of jade to access sexual power, awaken sensuality and maintain amazing health into their old age.” Fancy marketing and colorful stones seem to convince women that not only will the egg help the pelvic floor, but somehow contribute to remaining youthful and healthy. In reality, they’re just the very basic versions of other kegel trainers – great for strengthening the muscles, but maybe not for discovering your “inner goddess”. These kinds of products go for around $89.
So, are these kinds of products worth the money? In all reality, it’s up to you. If you have a couple of extra bucks to try something new and different to help with your light bladder leaks, by all means, go for it! If you want to go old-school and keep doing your classic kegels, no one is going to tell you otherwise. But the reality is that a lot of us are looking for solutions that are simple, effective, and less expensive than the devices on the market. If you’re experiencing light bladder leaks, some alternatives to buying an Elvie or Yoni Egg include pads and liners, being prescribed medications or being prescribed topical hormone treatments. Revive®, a reusable bladder support device available over-the-counter is also an option for women suffering from stress incontinence symptoms. Talk to your doctor and see what solutions will work for you and your lifestyle.