Updated 31 January 2018

Can your Spanx cause incontinence?

Waist trainers, Spanx and other shapewear are female celebrities' secret weapons but can they also cause incontinence and other health problems?

Kim Kardashian and her famous sisters swear by their waist trainers and Spanx for their flawless looks on the red carpet but what are the health effects of regularly squishing your body into restrictive shapewear?

Regularly using shapewear can contribute to a number of health issues, including incontinence, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Michael Gleiber explains on his website.

Shapewear and waist trainers constrict your stomach, digestive tract, bladder and other organs. These garments may place people with pre-existing conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome at greater risk of faecal incontinence episodes, gastroenterologist Dr. John Kuemmerle explained in an article published by The Huffington Post. For those with stress urinary incontinence, the pelvic floor muscles and sphincter muscles already do not function effectively. Tight underwear may place additional pressure on the bladder. 

Wearing shapewear also ups your chances of developing a urinary tract infection, yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis as they trap moisture.

Spanx and waist trainers may also contribute to a number of other, more serious dangerous issues such as:

- Restricted breathing, lightheadedness and dizziness

- Compressed nerves and related numbness and tingling in your legs

- Circulatory problems, especially if your shapewear is too tight and you are prone to varicose veins

Read: Kris Jenner has urinary incontinence

celebrities who love Spanx

Jessica Alba, Oprah Winfrey and Carrie Underwood are all self-confessed Spanx lovers (Photos via

But don't throw your beloved Spanx away just yet. Dr Keri Peterson, a medical advisor for Women's Health magazine, says that wearing Spanx and other restrictive garments is fine if you aren't noticing any unusual symptoms and don't have any pre-existing conditions that may put you at greater risk of the issues mentioned above.

Dr Peterson does however recommend that you should save your shapewear for special occasions and should avoid wearing them to the office or on a daily basis. She also suggests that you check that your garments aren't too tight or cutting into your skin. It may also be beneficial to avoid Spanx or similar restrictive underwear if you sweat excessively or if the weather is particularly hot to avoid excess moisture and related vaginal and urinary tract infections.

Read more:

Female triathletes are more at risk of incontinence

Incontinence takes its toll on younger women

How to choose the best absorbency product for you


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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