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Would you use a female urinary device? We weighed the pros and cons.

Leslie Barrie
November 17, 2014

Ladies, you probably recognize this dreadful moment: you walk into a porta-potty right before your 10k, and you immediately start cursing whoever created such a foul contraption.

While guys can get in and get out thanks to certain anatomical advantages, you're stuck with three icky options: a quad-burning hover (the mere thought of putting your bum on that seat is laughable). Holding it and running on a full bladder which is, oh, the worst feeling ever and probably won't help your race time. Or finally, dropping your drawers in the woods without leaking down your leg.

Some good news: companies are trying to throw another—potentially less gross—option into the mix, with new “female urinary devices.” Curious? Here are the pros and cons.

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How they work

Simply bring one of these small, funnel-like devices into that sorry excuse for a bathroom (or head right into the woods), drop your shorts, and pee standing up, sans splatter. The brand Go Girl makes a silicone version ($10, amazon.com) that looks almost like an upgraded funnel, like the one you use to put oil in your car. You can wash it with soap and water, and re-use it.

The Pee Pocket, on the other hand, is designed as a one-use-only biodegradable option. Originally designed by doctors for use by post-surgical patients who may have trouble sitting to pee, it's also shaped like a funnel. Each one is made of a special wax-covered paper, and comes folded in a small baggie with a tissue so you can wipe, too. You can buy a three-pack ($6, amazon.com) to stash in your race bag for emergencies or even a 48-pack ($28, amazon.com) if you'd like.

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Both work exactly the way you’d expect—as the Pee Pocket makers describe it, you place the large opening of the funnel so it “completely covers the pee flow area,” aka the urethral opening, and point the opposite tip down slightly, so you can aim it in the toilet, just like a dude would.

Pros

“The major benefit with one of these is that they can help women avoid developing urinary tract infections because it encourages them to use the bathroom when they need to rather than holding it in,” says Shilpi Agarwal, MD, a board-certified family physician in Washington, DC. Not a bad thought, considering a 2005 analysis from The Journal of Urology concluded that the lifetime risk of a UTI for women is more than 50%. Many times “poor bathroom conditions or lack of a bathroom can make women skip it altogether, increasing their chances,” Dr. Agarwal adds.

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But let's be honest: There’s also the mental benefits. While your chances of actually getting a skin rash or STD from a toilet seat is extremely low, preventing the gag-reflex and bad memories from a revolting porta-potty experience just makes your life easier. Plus, if you skip the potty and find a quiet spot in the woods, you don't have to wait in line.

Cons

Using one does take practice. As Go Girl advises, “don’t get discouraged if you dribble the first time or two.” If the idea of urinating on yourself a little bit at first freaks you out, this isn’t for you.

Also, you have to be sure to wash versions like the Go Girl very thoroughly to sterilize them. “Keep in mind part of the device also touches the pelvic skin, so if you have any cuts or abrasions in those areas, the device may introduce bacteria there unless it is cleaned after use,” Dr. Agarwal says.

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On top of that, in the case of Pee Pocket, there’s the environmental concerns about how they may add more to products to landfills.

Verdict

“It is probably best to use one when the conditions of the bathroom available—if at all—are very dirty or would make you want to hold your urine,” Dr. Agarwal says. But if you're fine with going in the woods, or you're somehow not grossed out by porta-pottys, feel free to file this under what will they come up with next?

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