Most women suffer from a common medical condition — but it’s long been kept on the down-low.
In medical terms, the condition is called stress urinary incontinence (SUI), otherwise known as leaky bladder — or when you just can’t hold it in.
Everyday actions such as sneezing, coughing and laughing — or physical activities such as running — usually trigger the leaks.
Longtime “Good Morning America” host Joan Lunden and her daughter Jamie Hess got real with Fox News Digital about the condition that impacts so many women, including themselves — yet is rarely discussed.
Lunden has been struggling with SUI for years, she revealed — and decided it was time to break the silence for the sake of other women.
“Women are so reluctant to talk about some of the things that start happening to us as we age,” she said.
As a health advocate, Lunden said she hopes to educate and empower women who’ve chosen not to speak about the condition that can often be “embarrassing.”
“This shouldn’t be a taboo subject, yet we’re so reluctant to talk about these ordinary realities that happen to almost every single woman.”
It’s important for women to understand that SUI isn’t just a “weird thing” that’s happening to them and them alone, Lunden stressed.
“And if it’s not talked about, that’s how women experience it,” she said.
“Alone,” she added.
One in three women reportedly suffer from SUI, yet Lunden thinks the number is much higher.
“I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a woman in her 60s or 70s who’s said, ‘No, I don’t have that problem,’” she said.
Lunden pointed out that SUI is an “even bigger problem today.”
And in an era in which women prioritize working out and staying (or getting) fit, Lunden pointed out that SUI is an “even bigger problem today.”
Hess, a wellness mentor and influencer, also encountered the perils of SUI after having her two sons, she said.
As an avid runner, Hess explained that it felt as if her one passion and outlet was “stolen” from her after she would go for runs with her husband — and wasn’t able to hold it in.
“This leaking problem, post babies, had stolen from me the one thing that was the most important and gave me my joy and gave me my identity back,” she said.
“That was a big deal for me,” she said.
After researching ways to manage SUI, Hess began practicing basic pelvic floor exercises that are recommended for tightening the pelvic area.
This includes Kegels, which 50% of women do incorrectly, experts say.
Hess eventually came across a new technology called INNOVO. It’s a non-invasive, “smart tech” pair of shorts that stimulate perfect Kegels.
After 12 weeks, Hess joined the 87% of women who are now reportedly leak-free.
“INNOVO literally changed my life,” she said. “It was a total game changer.”
In an interview with Fox News Digital, INNOVO inventor and physical therapist Dr. Ruth Maher revealed that the technology was first developed to teach women how to perform proper Kegels.
But the final product wound up being able to cure the condition, she said.
The Georgia-based doctor explained that SUI has nothing to do with the strength of the bladder, but with the function of the pelvic muscles that provide resistance to urination.
“Historically, urologists were really only there for male problems,” she said.
“And I really don’t think they have a good understanding of the impact of all the things that women go through across their lifespan to treat it appropriately.”
“Historically, urologists were really only there for male problems.”
Maher grew frustrated with the lack of answers for women experiencing leaks. So she began designing a product in 2008 for prevention, instead of the traditional reliance on using pads and liners.
“Once you say the pad is the cure, you’ve ruled out every other option for women,” she said. “They stop looking, and it’s become normalized.”
While pelvic exercises such as Kegels are difficult to detect when done right, Maher’s product was designed to line up electrodes to the nerves to trigger quick contractions.
“It’s essentially like high-intensity training,” she said.
“The contraction lasts just four-and-a-half seconds … but you get the improvement of the coordination and the improvement of the strength.”
INNOVO eventually developed into a non-invasive pair of bike shorts that women can wear five times a week for 30-minute sessions while sitting or standing.
“It’s very satisfying for me as a clinician to see women living their biggest life,” said Maher.
“Because I can tell you after 20 years, women were living ‘small lives’ because of this.”
Lunden revealed that she’s now in the process of using INNOVO, too, in the hope of quitting the management of her life around SUI.
“I’m really excited about bringing this thing to an end,” she said. “Because it really does start to dictate a woman’s life.”
Lunden’s greatest goal is to break the stigma around SUI and so do through conversation, especially with a bit of humor.
“When I wrote my last book, I told my husband that I was writing a chapter about this and that I was going to name it, ‘I laughed so hard tears rolled down my leg,’” she said.
“He said, ‘You can’t say that!’ And I said, ‘No, that’s just it. I need to say that.’”
Hess said women have suffered in silence instead of “sweeping away the shame.”
“I brought two beautiful humans into the world,” she said.
“I’m supposed to be embarrassed that my body is a little affected from that?” she said. “I’m not,” she said.
INNOVO does not require a prescription and is FDA-cleared.
It claims that in 12 weeks or less, a woman’s pelvic floor will be its “strongest” yet and that she can finally bid goodbye to bladder leaks. (As with any health condition or question, people should check first with their health professionals.)