Looking back, to leap forward

From Pomegranates to Pessaries: How historical pee-leak solutions informed Uresta’s design.

Dr. Scott Farrell, the inventor of Uresta, tells all about the inspiration behind his revolutionary, modern device.

As the inventor of Uresta, I get a lot of questions. What’s your background? Why did you invent a pee-leak solution? Why did you name it Uresta? What in the world is a pessary? Urogynecology? Well, I’ve decided it’s time to answer some of these questions.

What’s your background?

I am a Urogynecologist (a physician who specializes in women’s pelvic health), and a professor at Dalhousie University Medical School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. I did my residency training in Canada, then went on to do a fellowship in Urogynecology and Female Pelvic surgery in Long Beach, California. Eventually, I returned to Canada to set up my clinical practice in a teaching hospital in Atlantic Canada. Over time, I have become recognized as an accomplished surgeon and an expert in my field. But my years of experience treating women with unwanted urinary leakage led me to understand that there was something missing in the treatment options available for women with stress urinary incontinence. That’s when my attention turned to pessaries.

What’s a pessary?

It’s a device that’s inserted into the vagina to help with pelvic organ prolapse and urinary leaks.

Why haven’t I heard of pessaries before?

In the world of Urogynecology there’s a strong focus on using surgery to correct urinary leaks. And in my four years of medical school training, pessaries were never mentioned. They were considered by most of my teachers and colleagues to be antiquated devices from a bygone era. We were trained to be surgeons and to treat problems the modern way: with surgery. And while surgery is a great option for some, not everyone wants to undergo it, or can afford it.

What were historical pessaries like?

Early pessaries were fashioned from natural materials, such as wax balls, fruits like pomegranates, and cloth. Some were even carved from wood or fabricated using other natural materials. They’ve been in use for thousands of years. But, of course, complications arose when these materials were placed inside the body.

It was a long time before modern pessaries entered the scene. And when vulcanization was developed, rubber pessaries could be mass-produced by companies and provided to medical professionals.

These days, pessaries are made of inert thermoplastic elastomers or silicone.

Examples of early pessaries.

Is Uresta the only pessary that people still use today?

No, there are others called ring pessaries but, as I discovered, they have their drawbacks. Firstly, they must be fitted by a doctor. And while a small percentage of our patients could take care of their ring pessaries themselves, the majority had to come back for regular visits to have their pessary removed, cleaned, and re-inserted.

That’s why I wanted to create an easy, at-home solution for women that actually works.

How did you turn your inspiration into the actual Uresta product?

I set about developing a rudimentary design for my user-friendly pessary. Inspiration based on my clinical medical knowledge, and plasticine models I created, resulted in the first Uresta prototype! I then received Health Canada regulatory approval to conduct an investigational clinical trial of my invention to test its effectiveness and safety. The clinical study showed that the Uresta worked safely to successfully treat stress incontinence and that women welcomed it.1 Clinical experience with Uresta and other research about Uresta have confirmed this success.2,3

How is Uresta different from other pessaries?

Uresta lets women take control of their own pee-leak solution. They don’t have to go to the doctor to get it fitted, and they can insert it/remove it at home as the tapered end of Uresta allows for easy insertion into the vagina. And the bell shape means that the widest portion sits under the urethra, providing necessary support. The design also prevents Uresta from rotating out of place. The handle allows women to control Uresta as it’s inserted, and to grasp it for easy removal. And last, but not least, it’s comfortable!

Why did you call it Uresta?

The word “Uresta” can be broken up into 3 parts: “ur” represents the problem of urine leaks, “rest” represents the rest from pesky urine leaks, and “ahh” represents the sigh of relief women express when they are no longer worried about leaks.

  • 1.Farrell SA, Baydock S, Amir B, Fanning C. Effectiveness of a new self-positioning pessary for the management of urinary incontinence in women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2007 May;196(5):474.e1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2006.11.038.PMID: 17466709
  • 2. Lovatsis D, Best C, Diamond P. Short-term uresta® efficacy (SURE) study: a randomized controlled trial of the Uresta continence device. Int Urogynecol J. 2017; 28(1):147-150.
  • 3. Gallagher L, Woodcock D, Massey L. Product Reviews. Journal of Pelvic, Obstetric and Gynaecological Physiotherapy. 2019; 124: 63-66.