Incontinence products

Incontinence pads and other products and devices can make life easier for you if you’re waiting for a diagnosis or for a treatment to work.

A wide range of products and devices are available for bladder and bowel incontinence. They include pads and pants; bed and chair protection; catheters and penile sheaths; skin care and hygiene products and specially adapted clothing and swimwear.

Pads and pull-ups for incontinence

The most popular incontinence products are pads that are worn inside underwear to mop up urine leaks.

There's a wide choice of absorbent pads and pull-ups for men and women with all types of incontinence. They use the same technology as nappies and have a ‘hydrophobic’ layer which draws urine away from the surface of the pad, so your skin stays dry.

"I wouldn’t recommend that people with urinary incontinence or bowel incontinence use pads without advice from a doctor or continence adviser," says Karen Logan, continence nurse and director of continence services at Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust. "But as a temporary measure, they can really improve your quality of life and save you from being housebound or spending all your time in the toilet."

Avoid sanitary pads for incontinence

"Many women use sanitary pads instead of incontinence pads because they’re cheaper, but they don’t have the same technology. They stay damp and they can make skin sore," says Logan. "I recommend paying the extra for incontinence pads as they're much more effective and comfortable."

For people with severe leakage, continence clinics and district nurses can supply pads, often delivered to your home, on the NHS, but they tend to be big and bulky.

"Women with mild to moderate incontinence want the nice, thin, discrete pads you attach to your underwear. You pay for these yourself. They’re on sale at most supermarkets, chemists and online. It doesn’t really matter what brand you buy as they're all good quality," says Logan.

Stop stress incontinence leaks with tampons

Some women with stress incontinence use super-sized tampons to prevent sudden leaks. Wearing a tampon in the vagina puts pressure on the bladder neck to stop leakage on exertion.

According to NICE guidelines on urinary incontinence, tampons aren't recommended for the routine management of urinary incontinence in women. The guidelines state: "Women should not be advised to consider such devices other than for occasional use when necessary to prevent leakage, for example during physical exercise."

Appliances and bedding for incontinence

Other useful incontinence products for more serious leakage include sheaths and drainage systems for men and urinals (urine collection devices) for men and women.

A variety of incontinence bedding is available, such as washable bed pads, which sit on top of the mattress and soak up any overnight leakage. The pads stay dry to the touch and they can be useful for trips away from home.

Can you get incontinence products on the NHS?

You may be able to get incontinence products on the NHS; it depends on your local organisation. To qualify for NHS products you may need to be assessed by a healthcare professional.

Here's more information about getting incontinence products on the NHS.

Where to buy incontinence products

The charity PromoCon (Promoting Continence and Product Awareness), which is part of Disabled Living, Manchester, gives independent advice on products that can help manage bladder and bowel problems. For more information on products and mail order, call their confidential helpline on 0161 607 8219 or visit the PromoCon website.

The Continence Product Advisor is a new website which gives you independent and evidence-based advice on how to choose and use suitable incontinence products.

Or,  for one-to-one advice on incontinence products call the B&BF's telephone helpline on 0845 345 0165.

Read more tips for living with incontinence.

Page last reviewed: 13/01/2015

Next review due: 13/01/2017


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The 5 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

User841673 said on 04 February 2014

This site is useful for continence products

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Liahona said on 23 November 2013

Why is it that the NHS only provide PADS for incontinence. My husband is incontinent and has dementia. Getting him to 'cooperate' when trying to get these pads on him, trying to get him to lift his hips up and maneouvre the pad into position then having to maeouvre pants as well is like an army assault course. he tries to get up int he middle of the night and unsuccessfully tries to pull down pants and pad together to use a commode...I end up with urine all over the floor, sometimes having to get up two or three times a night to clean up the mess to prevent him slipping and having an accident - sometimes I go without sleep for up to two days at a time due to constantly having to be alert. Pants/pullups would eliminate all this - the pants/pullups would be so much easier for him to take down and pull up in one easy motion, and for me to replace when he is damp. Have you ever tried to pull up pants and put a pad in place on a fully grown person when they are standing and dont have full balance? NHS - try thinking of those caring as well as the patients please - I need to sleep too, sometime! I am sick of all the focus being on costs and the patient themselves. If the carers are run into the ground - the price is far from being saved by the cost of having them put into care! Think about it! Practicality please!

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caw1990 said on 12 February 2012

I totally agree with silver76
I am only 22 and been suffering since 20. There are others out there (spina bifida patients), trauma patients, nocturnal enuresis patients, etc who have to struggle with this problem. Yet it is all focused at the elderly and women. OK, so they make up the majority of the market, but they live a completely different lifestyle to the younger generation. This is not to say they are not active, we should all know that incontinence is not a natural problem with age. It is not natural, full stop, and many cases can be "cured" or at least improved. Although I cannot help but become frustrated with the elderly images propping up on sites, such as Tena. How is the public not to be notified that this exists amongst the young and the young not feel threatened and embarrassed when they are noticed to have had a leak?
I am a young product designer, and I am working on urinary incontinence and this is a weakness I feel that needs to be addressed.

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silver76 said on 21 October 2011

The majority of articles on the subject of incontinence are either aimed at women or the elderly.While this condition is more prevalent in these patients,incontinence effects people of all ages and both sexes.It would be nice to see some articles aimed at the younger/middle aged patients that suffer from this affliction.When I started encountering problems being A)male and B)under 35 posed major barriers.In the end a post I made on a certain website was seen by someone who was the head of a charity that deals with incontinence.Solely by their intervention did I get some of the help I needed.Over the last few years though our continence service has changed and so have my needs.But due to their policy changes I cannot try something else nor change what I currently receive,its a case of put up and shut up.Out of fear of having the rug pulled out from under me I soldier on.Another aspect of continence services that baffles me is why there should be any difference from county to county.Depending on where you live dictates what help/products you receive,some counties ration products or supply products/help to a select few,some provide nothing.
Suffering with incontinence ( plus other health problems) is bad enough without having to battle the bean counters for healthcare,why these products cannot be prescribed the same way as catheters (I use these too),bags etc is beyond me.It would be nice to be able to select the product that best suits me and my needs as every product and person is different.As I said earlier I am a younger patient and I find getting what I need a nightmare,I dread to think how the elderly cope with the wall of bureaucracy.
This is one aspect of the NHS that needs sorting out seriously and a set standard applied across the UK.
Fellow sufferers please do not be put off by my experience,push for the help and products you need and hopefully services will be improved.Being an embarrassing condition assists them in cutting services.Good luck.

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jessvb said on 15 December 2010

Thank you for a very helpful article.
I particularly associated with your comments about
women using sanitary pads instead of incontinence pads because they’re cheaper.
I was at one time in this situation but I found another interesting article on an incontinence help website that covered this exact problem.
Since then I have become a customer of theirs and now use the correct incontinence products!
Thank you again for your helpful information.

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