Mechanical Devices for Urinary Incontinence in Women

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Mechanical Devices for Urinary Incontinence in Women

Treatment Overview

Mechanical devices may be used to manage different types of urinary incontinence.

Stress incontinence

  • Pessary: A pessary is a rubber device that is inserted into the vagina until it touches the cervix. The pessary presses through the vaginal wall and supports the urethra. It also pinches the urethra closed to help retain urine in the bladder and decrease stress incontinence. Some women who have stress incontinence use a pessary just during activities that are likely to cause urine leakage, such as jogging. But many pessaries can be worn all the time.
  • Urethral insert: A thin, flexible tube that is solid rather than hollow (like a catheter) is placed into the urethra to block the leakage of urine.
  • External urethral barrier: A self-adhesive patch or a cap is placed over the urethral opening to block the leakage of urine.

What To Expect After Treatment

This section is not applicable to this treatment.

Why It Is Done

Mechanical devices can be used to control stress and mixed urinary incontinence. Because they have few risks, they are usually tried before surgery, along with other treatments like pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises. Some women who have incontinence but who don't want or can't have surgery may find that mechanical devices work well enough to control their incontinence.

How Well It Works

There is no strong evidence that these devices work to control incontinence. But they don't have a lot of risks. If they don't work for you, you can always try other things like pelvic floor exercises or surgery.


Using a urethral insert increases the risk of:

Using pessaries increases the risk of damaging the:

  • Vaginal wall.
  • Urethra.

What To Think About

Use of mechanical devices is under your control and can be designed to fit into your lifestyle.

For some women, a tampon inserted in the vagina creates enough pressure to prevent leaking. Tampons can be used instead of a pessary, with little risk.

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By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Avery L. Seifert, MD - Urology
Last Revised October 28, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.