Active Table of Contents:
A She-P is a urination device for female SCUBA divers
Historically, extended range diving has been restricted by limitations. Some of these restrictions, such as the maximum depth of the dive, are influenced by choices the diver makes during the planning phase of the dive; while others such as environmental and physiologic limitations, are beyond the divers control. Due to the the extreme nature of dives being conducted by some groups in recent years (25+ hours submerged), these physiologic limitations, namely the need for caloric fluid intake and elimination of waste, have needed to be addressed. These solutions have trickled down from the commercial diving industry to the exploration divers (starting in the mid-90’s), soon other extended range divers followed suit. Now, these same solutions are being seen in the recreational realm (instructors for example who spend hours in the water with a day full of classes) making all of our dives both safer and more enjoyable.
For over 130 years, dating back to the early maritime salvage industry (essentially with the inception of the drysuit) male drysuit divers have had the option of installing an overboard discharge in their suits for the elimination of urine. More recently, this technology has made its way to the mainstream, and essentially become the ‘norm’ for both extended range divers AND many recreational divers spending long days in the water. The earliest “pee-valve kit” was a simple system consisting of a condom catheter or similar styled device, some rubber tubing and a thru hull fitting with external bolt that would be unscrewed when it was time for use. More recent advances include a screw down cap and one way mushroom valve in place of the bolt, and a balancing chamber to equalize the pressure in the rubber tubing to the gas inside the drysuit. These devices are commercially available from several manufacturers for a reasonable cost and are either included as an option when purchasing a new drysuit or user installable.
The few solutions that did exist for women proved unsatisfactory. Adult diapers, while an option, have persistent leakage and skin irritation problems. Internal catheterization, while also an option, poses significant risk of infection as well as the fact that clean/safe insertion is a learned skill that must be practiced to maintain efficacy. Over the years many extended range divers have resorted to intentionally restricting hydration and scheduled increase of sodium intake in an effort to control urine output during longer dives and long days in the drysuit, both while teaching classes or offshore endeavors in the winter months. Obviously the practice of artificially limiting output whatever the method, is less than ideal from a decompression standpoint, potentially increasing the risk of DCS (Decompression Sickness or “the bends”), especially on an aggressive decompression dive.
Born of Frustration
Finding themselves increasingly frustrated by the options available to female technical divers, a group of Dutch women began developing their own solution in mid 2005. Eventually a latex prototype was developed and tested. Unfortunately some of the early renditions of the product were less than satisfactory, which in hindsight likely hindered the project due to the negative “feedback” permeating the internet. In contrast, the most recent rendition, fondly dubbed the “She-P” has been a resounding success.
She-P Version 2.0 “Beyond the Diaper Zone”
The She-P version 2.0 is a reusable soft, flexible silicone device featuring a reservoir with ‘output’ tube, surrounded by flexible ‘wings’ that are designed to be adhered to the skin with a medical adhesive intended for use with urology devices and other medical prosthesis, and, if necessary, some waterproof medical tape. The output tube then attaches to the same “pee-valve” that men use via a barbed fitting (that comes with the P-valve) a 4 to 6 cm silicone or norprene tube, and then a flow through quick disconnect. A smaller rendition of the adult diaper, such as the Poise pad is used by many women as a ‘backup’ just in case, to protect the wearers expensive dive under garments in the event of a leak. The two primary complaints regarding the device have been the need to site prep, and the need remove the adhesive from the device post dive. Now that it is silicone as opposed to latex, more cleaning solutions are compatible, this has become less of an issue. A single use version will available in the future, though the non-disposable version is by far the more economically and environmentally sound decision for frequent divers.
The She-P represents a unprecedented step forward for the female drysuit diver. With its advent, we are now on a level playing field the boys in regards to executing longer dives and longer dive days in drysuits. I foresee this device will find quickly it’s way outside the diving environment, with uses far beyond our underwater world.
The She-P is currently Pat. Pending. Non-disposable She-P’s are manufactured in the Netherlands by Heleen and Sander, She-P VOF and imported into the US by She-P North America. Disposable She-P’s are being developed concurrently in both the US and NL.