On International Women’s Day, we celebrate INNOVO founder, Dr. Ruth Maher, who saw an opportunity to change women’s lives and empower their emotional and physical health by helping treat stress urinary incontinence, a condition where as a result of a weakened pelvic floor, women often leak urine during everyday activities like running, bending over, coughing or even laughing. As a physical therapist, too often she was meeting women who were ashamed, depressed and despondent at experiencing SUI, and she knew she had to do something about it.
“Stress Urinary Incontinence is frustrating,” says Ruth. “Unfortunately, bladder leaks do not discriminate. It’s always assumed that having a baby is what causes it, but women from the ages of 18 to 80 can have them—regardless of whether they’ve given birth.”
Having worked in women’s health for decades, many of the women Ruth worked with were dealing with this condition for 10, 15, even 20 years. It was clear they had exhausted all efforts, but they didn’t want to have to undergo surgery to attempt to fix it. As a result, many of these patients started to live very small lives. “They stopped doing things they enjoyed—like exercise, running after their kids and, yes, having brunch with girlfriends,” says Ruth.
Dr. Ruth Maher saw an opportunity to study for her PhD in Dublin. She went back to school and at the time, many of her friends who had had kids were suffering from stress urinary incontinence for several years. “One had such a bad experience with sling surgery, that she ended up not being able to pee for a week,” says Ruth “I realized that women didn’t know that their root problem was weakness in the pelvic floor. I started doing some experiments, where I’d time the contractions that were imperative to dissipate urine from the bladder. Again, I saw that these contractions were not on time and as a result, they’d leak urine.
The women she met felt like a lost cause. They did their Kegels at home, but to no avail. “When you’re doing kegel exercises at home, you have no way of knowing if you’re doing them right,” says Ruth.
“I’ve seen this issue quite a bit in my practice over the years. Women would come in saying they had tried kegels and that they didn’t work. Through using ultrasound technology, I was able to show these women that what they were doing was anything but a kegel. They were either using the wrong muscles or bearing down like you would when emptying your bowels. This is too bad, because doing kegels incorrectly can actually exacerbate leaks.”
Then, the idea hit. Dr. Ruth Maher knew a great deal about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and had the chance to develop a device in Dublin as a pilot for her PhD. The ultrasound imaging helped validate the device, and she could start to see where to place the eight electrodes around the pelvis and upper leg and thighs. “We started using Multipath stimulation to send currents in different pathways to send contractions in different places,” says Ruth. “Women who used the device consistently over the course of 12 weeks, were leak-free.”
Dr. Ruth Maher took the same technology and embedded it in the form of a bike short. All women had to do was put on the short and let INNOVO deliver 180 perfect kegel exercises within the 30 minute session. The device mimics the perfect kegel and strengthens the pelvic floor. It replicates the reflex contraction that should automatically occur to keep women dry. And it’s simple to use—what’s easier than putting on a pair of shorts?
“When you turn on the device, you’ll notice some tingling in the buttocks area. Then, you increase the intensity slowly and that tingling moves towards your rectum until you feel your pelvic floor lifting up inside. If you wear INNOVO for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, you’ll be leak-free within 12 weeks.” say Dr. Ruth Maher.
So far, INNOVO has delivered more than 5 million safe and successful sessions worldwide. 87% of women are leak-free after using INNOVO for 12 weeks or less. But there’s so much more. INNOVO supports ending all stigmas associated with female health, particularly during the aging process. INNOVO is a proud partner of Gen M, an organization that believes we need to make menopause better for all of us - from friends and family, to colleagues and consumers. The organization is on the front lines of women’s health uniting brands, non-profits and employers to improve the menopause experience and to keep perimenopausal and menopausal women from being overlooked at home, at work and across their communities. Only then can women embark on this journey with support, education and confidence. In other words, Gen M is normalizing the normal and driving real change.
INNOVO has signed the Gen M pledge by becoming one of the 48 Founding Members of Gen M to revolutionise attitudes towards menopause. GenM’s mission marries perfectly with INNOVO’s desire to drive change, broaden awareness and increase education around menopause, particularly as it pertains to pelvic floor health. As a women’s health company and employer of women, INNOVO is supporting females when they need it most.
“That’s precisely what inspired me to create INNOVO and sign on to help other organizations,” says Dr. Ruth Maher. “My goal is for women to go through every stage of life feeling empowered and as great as they can be.”