Women's Health

Vaginal estrogen ring helps relieve overactive bladder

Up to 40% of postmenopausal women have overactive bladder — an urgent and frequent need to urinate, sometimes resulting in incontinence. The most common drug treatment is oxybutynin (Ditropan), which is an anticholinergic medication. That means it blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, relaxing the bladder and decreasing the need to urinate. But anticholinergics can cause dry mouth and constipation, side effects that prompt many women with overactive bladder to stop taking the medication. Now, a study in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society (September 2011) finds there's an equally effective alternative that lacks those side effects — an ultra-low-dose estradiol vaginal ring (Estring). Vaginal estrogen cream can help manage overactive bladder symptoms, but creams can be messy and must be reapplied several times a week. The ring is worn continuously and can stay in place for three months.

The study. The study included 59 postmenopausal women with overactive bladder, defined as urinating 10 or more times in 24 hours. Thirty-one were randomly assigned to take oxybutynin; 28 received the vaginal ring. The women recorded their urination times during two 72-hour periods, once at the start of the 12-week study and again at the end. They also filled out questionnaires on the distress caused by their symptoms and their overall quality of life.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.