“Technology,” “fun,” and “pelvic floor muscles” aren’t usually used in one sentence, but for Tania Boler, women’s-health-expert-turned-tech-CEO, it’s a daily conversation.
Tania is the CEO of Chiaro, a women’s tech company that is pioneering smarter technology for women. Their most immediate goal is to help women strengthen their pelvic floor muscles using technology and a very smart device called Elvie.
We at Gennev were intrigued, because vaginal health and pelvic floor health go hand-in-hand.
We Skyped with Tania this week and learned what every woman needs to know about her own pelvic floor health: If we don’t take care of it, we can be susceptible to incontinence …better known as bladder leakage or peeing in our pants. If we do take care of it, we can look forward to better core and pelvic strength, better sex, and bladder control.
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Pelvic-floor strengthening is something that dance studios, barre classes, Pilates and yoga teachers and cross-fit gyms teach around the globe. It’s not just Kegels—it’s a weight-lifting regimen for your pelvis, and Tania and team are finding a better way to do it.
Tania Boler is an expert and PhD in sexual and reproductive health who spent years working in HIV-prevention and sex education in Africa. And yet, even she wasn’t familiar with the importance of the pelvic floor until she was pregnant with her first child. Tania’s first lesson in pelvic floor health came from her Pilates instructor.
This led to discussions with other women, and ultimately to the realization that so much of women’s health care is reactive—as Tania says, “We only know about some of the most intimate parts of our bodies when something goes wrong.”
As Tania told us, “The more I read about it, I was shocked by how common so many of these women’s health issues were, and it really resonated because a lot of them are easily preventable and there’s treatment available. We just didn’t have the educational tools.”
Tania decided this was a gap she could fill. She could educate women—early—to prevent problems or treat issues they were already suffering.
Except the options weren’t exactly awesome.
Physical therapy was effective, but it was short-term and involved having to go outside the home to work with a therapist. Women preferred something they could use alone, in private. Electrical stimulators didn’t really do the job, and passive devices didn’t provide feedback or inspiration to continue, so women quit using them.
What did work, Tania told us, was when women were in a hospital, outfitted with probes. As the women engaged their pelvic muscles, they could see the results on monitors, giving them incentive to improve their performance.
“It was quite a simple eureka moment. I thought, let’s just take this medical equipment and turn it into something women could use at home.”
Elvie is a beautifully designed device that discreetly fits inside the vagina, tracks exercise, and streams results to an app on the user’s mobile phone. As a woman contracts and relaxes the pelvic muscles, a digital “gem” moves up and down on the screen. The stronger the squeeze, the higher the gem rises. Six unique exercises employ speed, strength, pulsing, holding, lifting, and stepping to give the pelvic floor a thorough workout.
“I was lucky that one of my first advisors was Alex Asseily, who started Jawbone. He was able to help us find the right engineers and designers to create an exercise tracker you can safely place inside the body, which requires the highest standards of water-proofing, data privacy…it’s more complicated than a typical exercise tracker.”
The real-time biofeedback helps women make that critical mind/body connection and get a real sense of how well they’re doing. As the muscles get stronger, a user can unlock levels and access new games, and the internal sensors ensure women that the exercises are being done correctly.
Yes, we said “games.” As a user progresses, she can unlock levels within games. The creators of Elvie found a better way for women to strengthen pelvic floor muscles—and they made it fun.
Every detail of the Elvie is engineered for the best user experience: the shape and size are optimized to fit a woman’s body; it’s discreet, even elegant. It’s comfortable to use, even for a woman in motion. Chiaro, the company that created Elvie, engaged more than 150 testers to help with the evolution of the device.
“Women. Women can benefit,” Tania says. Pretty much all women, of all ages, whether they currently have problems or want to avoid them in future.
“Women come to Elvie for different reasons at different points in their lives. Millennials find it fun and use it as part of core fitness or for terrific sex. New mums have a pretty damaged pelvic floor, so we have gentle exercises for them. Women get quite competitive with themselves, and it’s all about continuing improvement. We have thousands of women using Elvie now, and they email us asking for new levels, new games, new challenges.”
And it’s not all about warding off incontinence. We hear all the time about the importance of strengthening your core muscles for overall health—your pelvic muscles are part of that core. Tania says ballerinas and many competitive athletes find the information Elvie provides about their pelvic floor engagement really helps them improve their performance.
Currently, the conversation around pelvic health, what little there is, focuses on the negatives like incontinence and prolapse, and that can dampen (pun intended) enthusiasm for more discussion. But innovations like the Elvie inspire conversation—suddenly there’s this new, fun, helpful thing that can really make a difference in women’s lives. “Women have pelvic floor problems, but they don’t need to be reminded about it. Making it fun helps them associate more positive feelings around exercising, and that’s really key.
“There’s a sort of new revolution for women. Women are very proudly owning their bodies and proudly embracing womanhood, and with Elvie, we’re able to be a part of that.”
Like Chiaro and Elvie, Gennev is about helping women be their healthiest, happiest selves, and we couldn’t be prouder that Elvie recommends Gennev lubricants for women who prefer using their Elvie with a lube.
Many thanks to Tania Boler for sharing her story and expertise with us. We look forward to working more with Elvie and Chiaro to help all women live their very best lives.