Stress incontinence. We’ve all been there. Whether through childbirth, obesity, our lifestyle choices e.g. smoking, or simply because of ageing. You laugh, cough or sneeze and do a little wee. It’s embarrassing, it’s upsetting and it’s inconvenient. Stress incontinence is a pain in the bladder. No more jumping up and down on trampolines for us. It isn’t normal and shouldn’t be accepted and you should seek medical advice for your symptoms.
In the UK alone, 1 in 3 adults, that’s over 3.5 million women, are living with this condition and the taboo’s surrounding it. From the moment we start being potty trained we are taught that we have to stay dry, to hang onto our wee until there is a toilet available. But what if we can’t simple hold on? What do we do if our leakage takes us by surprise?
The NHS recommends lifestyle changes such as losing weight, stopping smoking and cutting down on our alcohol and caffeine intakes. I have to say, since I stopped smoking cigarettes my bladder incontinence has improved, mainly because I now longer spend my waking hours coughing like a ship’s stoker. They say we should do pelvic floor exercises. Who, like me, does so many pelvic floor exercises that in theory they should have bladder muscles of steel, yet still leaks? There are surgical solutions and medications available but only as a last resort.
So, what do most of do? We turn to sanitary products. Panty liners, pads, Tena Lady’s and the like. Britain is the highest consumer of sanitary products in the EU. In 2018 it is estimated that we will consume 4.1 billion sanitary towels alone. Around half of those will go into landfill and unbelievably, the other half will be flushed down the loo, to end up in our rivers and on our beaches. Nice.
However, there is a solution at hand. A few months ago, I took part in some discussion videos based around the menopause, for a company called Esteem, who make clothing for ladies experiencing menopausal symptoms. Whilst there I met a lady called Anne, who along with her business partner Judith, runs a company called Giggle Knickers, making eco-friendly, washable knickers that are designed to securely hold onto those little leaks, whilst still keeping you dry.
Anne and Judith originally met 20 years in Henley, whilst both studying university courses. Anne was from Manchester, a mother to five and a teacher, while Judith was from London, also a mother and had a career in the fashion industry. The two became firm friends and vowed to work together at some point. That point came when one of them had had surgery and couldn’t find any suitable post-op underwear. Judith decided to try and design something that she wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in, that was economical and at the same time kept you dry.
The next couple of years she spent researching and developing the product around the kitchen table and eventually she cracked it. Underwear that is comfortable, made in high quality cotton yet because of its hi-tech, protective panel, keeps you dry by pulling liquids away from your skin and holding on to it without pooling. The patent pending core that she developed is designed to comfortably hold up to 30ml or 6 teaspoons of liquid. The core itself is not bulky, it feels like panty liner thickness rather than a sanitary towel, so it is lightweight and discreet.
Once happy with the prototype, Anne came on board and they started to source manufacturers. Initially they tried to find someone in the UK to make them. They even approached the knicker firm, Kinky Knickers in Manchester, who had featured on the Mary Portas TV series, Mary’s Bottom Line. Unfortunately, for the volumes involved, British producers proved too expensive and so they turned to China. Being ethically minded, they ensured that the factories they use operate in an equally principled manner, to ensure that workers have safe working conditions, are treated fairly, paid a fair wage and that no child labour is used.
In the meantime, they began a Kickstarter campaign to fund the initial production and off the back of that, they were asked to appear on Dragon’s Den. Eventually, armed with a business loan, production commenced and the first batch of knickers went on sale in November 2017.
It is early days yet, so Giggle Knickers, like Henry Ford’s Model T, only come in one colour…black and in one design. However, they come in 5 sizes, from UK 4-6 to UK 18 and cost £12.99 per pair. As business builds Anne and Judith aims to produce more colours and signs. They also want to develop a men’s range. Giggle Knickers, is a company that wants to benefit as many people as possible, so 20p from every purchase is donated to the Free A Girl India charity, which aims to fight against human trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Giggle Knickers are available online, direct from themselves, with 20% off orders of 3 pairs or more.
“Don’t let a trickle stop your giggle.”
Photos: © Giggle Knickers. Do not reproduce without permission