It seems like nowadays with climate activists like Greta Thunberg, movements are gaining traction in the mainstream media, thus also gaining traction with the general public. This has forced us to take a look at what we consume and what kind of waste we produce and many are making changes. People are purchasing greener vehicles, reusing containers, and purchasing natural products kept in alternative or compostable packaging. With this spike in interest in environmental conservation in consumerism, all sorts of companies are changing to make themselves more green and environmentally-friendly to entice consumers. Some of these changing products include those designed and marketed as urinary incontinence products, being made as reusable or decomposable to reduce waste created by pads and liners. Some people are choosing to forgo products altogether and attempting to find other solutions to light bladder leaks. Let’s take a look at what these light bladder leaks are and what solutions are friendly to the environment and the user.
What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?
While there are several types of urinary incontinence, we’re specifically talking about Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI), which impacts around 10-20% of women. Stress Urinary Incontinence can be defined by the Urology Care Foundation as “when urine leaks out with sudden pressure on the bladder and urethra, causing the sphincter muscles to open briefly.” Basically, involuntary leaks when the urinary tract is put under pressure like running, sneezing, coughing, etc. The leak can vary in size from a couple of dribbles to a noticeable stream. While both men and women can develop SUI, it is much more common in women with less than 10% of urinary incontinence cases in men being attributed to SUI. Stress Incontinence can be tied back to a weakened pelvic floor, the group of muscles that supports the urinary tract and helps to regulate the flow of urine. You’re more likely to develop SUI if you have the following risk factors:
Have delivered a baby vaginally and/or have been through labor prior to undergoing a C-section.
Are experiencing hormone changes attributed to menopause or perimenopause.
Are a smoker.
Are overweight or obese.
Have undergone a surgery that involves the pelvic floor (hysterectomy, prostatectomy, the removal of a tumor, etc.).
Have experienced a stroke.
Are a former or current athlete that undergoes repeated impact frequently (runner, dancer, gymnastics, etc.).
Have experienced nerve injuries to the lower back.
If you’re experiencing light bladder leaks, you’re not alone and there are plenty of solutions out there to help reduce leaks or prevent them from ruining your clothes.
Disposable pads and liners made for bladder leaks can create a lot of waste over time, with one article citing that “close to 20 billion sanitary aids are dumped into North American landfills every year, and, when wrapped in plastic bags, feminine hygiene waste can take centuries to biodegrade.” Besides being nonbiodegradable, conventional pads and liners can be made with chemicals like chlorine, perfume, and dyes. Plus, most pads are 90% plastic! So, how can we manage light bladder leaks while still helping out the planet? Natural Pads and Liners - Since environmentally-conscious companies and products are skyrocketing in popularity with consumers for one reason or another, feminine care and incontinence companies have taken notice. Companies like Natracare and HestaOrganics have created incontinence pads and liners that are great natural and safe alternatives to conventional incontinence pads. They’re made of natural ingredients that will actually break down over time unlike pads made of plastic and chemicals. Reusable Incontinence Garments - These are kind of like pads and liners, but are taking place of the whole undergarment to act as the absorption pad between you and your other clothes and surfaces. These kinds of garments can be worn, washed, and reused to reduce the number of pads and liners that would have ended up in a landfill in lieu of the garment. Kegels - Remember how SUI all comes back to the weakening or damaging of the pelvic floor muscles? Kegels are exercises meant to target those muscles and restrengthen them to hopefully reduce leaks over time. Like any exercise, Kegels take time and effort for results to become noticeable, and there are a million Kegel “products” sold online, like the Yoni egg that claim to help women in the performance and effectiveness of the exercise. For a step-by-step guide on Kegels and other pelvic floor muscle exercises check out this article from Healthline. Reusable Incontinence Products - Just like you can reuse bags and containers and cups, there are new incontinence products on the market that are designed to be reused to reduce the amount of waste that can come with light bladder leaks. Devices like Revive® are meant to be worn all day to help reduce leaks and the amount of pads used throughout the day. After use, Revive® is designed to be removed, cleaned, and stored until the next use! The bottom line is that if you’re in search of a greener alternative to your current incontinence products, there are options out there! You just have to decide what is right for you and your lifestyle, and ultimately Mother Earth will thank you.