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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