For many women with Accidental Bowel Leakage (ABL), the loss of bowel control becomes the controlling force in their lives.
Fearing an embarrassing accident, many choose to stay close to home and miss out on the activities they love. Sometimes lifestyle changes can help. If not, physicians have traditionally recommended invasive treatments that involve injections, surgery or implants.
Recognizing an unmet need, a San Francisco Bay Area-based startup called Pelvalon developed a non-surgical solution that provides immediate relief. Eclipse is the first vaginal insert designed to provide bowel control. A balloon insert is placed in the same location as a tampon and can be removed at any time. The balloon is designed to control the rectum and prevent stool from passing unexpectedly. It’s inflated and deflated with a discreet, detachable pump, which allows the user to control the timing of her bowel movements.
The company was focusing on the vaginal insert portion of the design, working on next-generation versions with Swope Design Solutions, a firm that shares office space with Design Concepts in San Francisco. They came to us with a detachable pump prototype made from “off the shelf” components, looking for assistance with usability, industrial design and the engineering design necessary for manufacture.
Our first task was to truly understand the users and set the design parameters. Pelvalon had an office where physicians were fitting women with inserts to test functionality and comfort. Our research and design team interviewed participants, and even tried Eclipse themselves to gain empathy.
They concluded that the pump needed to convey a balance of friendliness and comfort with enough medical cues to make it feel like a real solution. Because of the stigma attached to ABL, the pump also needed to be small, discreet and innocuous. Realizing that many women would probably keep it in their purses or their medicine cabinet, the team created a brand language and form that’s closer to what you might see at the cosmetics counter.
Our engineering team worked to take the first prototype to the next level, improving usability and reliability. The biggest challenge was the design and manufacture of the cap that protects the ports on the top of the pump. The cap had to be easy to operate with one hand and remain attached (since the pump is used in public restrooms), and have a high-quality feel to the opening/closing. Extra care had to be taken with this part of the design of the pump, as well as the interface between the pump’s flexible squeeze bulb and its rigid top, as the pump had to be cleanable according to the instructions for use. Once physical units were produced, they would need to pass rigorous testing to ensure cleanability.
The design and engineering team explored form, color, material and finish to elevate and support the Eclipse brand while supporting the user and helped Pelvalon identify the right materials and manufacturer to bring the Eclipse to market.
This was a fast project, approximately six months in total, but the results have been life-changing for many women. The Eclipse System won a silver in the 2017 Medical Device Excellence Awards, a 2016 Gold Edison Award in the Women’s Health and Wellbeing category, and third-place recognition at the 2016 Design Value Awards held by the Design Management Institute (DMI). It won a 2017 Good Design Award in the Medical category.
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