Key facts about incontinence products:
- More than five million Australians battle with incontinence each year, with many ignoring their symptoms.
- The right incontinence products can offer you the confidence to comfortably go about your daily life.
- There are several different types of incontinence products available, including liners, pads and absorbent underwear.
Data obtained December 2018. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.
What are incontinence products?
Incontinence products can help you manage accidental or involuntary bladder or bowel problems. Incontinence products can protect your clothing, furniture or bedding and come in numerous forms, including liners, pads, underwear and diapers.
Individual incontinence products are relatively cheap at around ten cents to three dollars per product, but the cost adds up quickly if you wear multiple products per day for an extended period of time. However, discounted and subsidised products are available. Some incontinence products are covered by insurance, but check to make sure they don't fall under any health insurance exclusions. There is also a government Continence Aids Payment Scheme that subsidises continence-related products for those with permanent incontinence. If your incontinence is related to a disability, check if you are eligible for support from The National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Disabilities and health insurance
What types are available?
The right type of incontinence product will often depend on comfort and how heavy the leakage flow is. Some products are for short-term use to help people recovering from medical procedures, while others are for long-term use.
There are three main types of wearable incontinence products:
- Pads. Pads are available in disposable and reusable styles, and come in a large range of sizes. Larger pads tend to be more absorbent, but need to fit snugly in order to avoid leakage. While disposable pads offer convenience, they can be expensive if used often over a long period of time.
- Liners. Liners are best suited to those with a light flow or leakage. The main benefit of wearing liners is that they tend to be discreet and thin and are not visible under clothing. If you're not sure about your flow or leakage, pads or underwear are a safer option.
- Undergarments. These can come in the form of adult diapers, underwear or underpants. Undergarments are geared towards heavy leakage and can be disposable or washable. They are also ideal for sleeping when bladder control is often reduced.
How to compare incontinence products
The right incontinence product will depend on how heavy your leakage flow is and your individual needs. When comparing incontinence products be sure to consider the following:
Size and fit
The fit is essential. If it's too small, your garment might ride up and leave cracks for leakage. If it's too big and baggy, it may not create a tight seal. Sizes like "small", "medium" or "large" are not consistent across different brands, so make sure to read the packaging for specific measurements. Keep in mind, you may have to try a few brands to find the perfect product for you.
Products with greater absorbency tend to cost more. If you know you need maximum absorption, look for a brand's most absorbent product. Brands typically have their own systems of defining leakage rates and flows, making it hard to compare products across brands. It may be a case of trial and error, but you can start by reading customer reviews and listening to the advice of medical practitioners.
Typically, products with greater absorbency offer more odour control. Some manufacturers claim to negate smells by drying out leakages, balancing pH measurements or adding fragrance. Keep in mind, if you have sensitive skin, products with added fragrance could cause irritation.
This often comes down to thickness. The thicker a product is, the less discreet you tend to feel. However, thicker products offer more absorbency. You may have to try a few brands before you find the right balance for you.
Day or night
Bladder and bowel control are often reduced at night. You might find you need to wear more absorbent undergarments or pads at night, even if you would usually use liners during the day.
We all want to feel comfortable at work or as we go about our daily lives. Comfort ultimately comes back to absorption; the closer you can get to a dry feeling post-leak, the more comfortable your incontinence product will feel.
Some incontinence products are washable and can be reused. If incontinence is an ongoing struggle or you are concerned about the environmental impact of single-use products, consider trying a washable and reusable product.
Some products have gender-specific designs to match the contours of male or female bodies. Other products are unisex. Ultimately, the right choice for you comes down to what fits your body best.
Undergarments often include tabs to help fasten the garment to your body. Look for tabs that are easy to use yet strong and secure when fastened.
Non-wearable incontinence products to use at home
Incontinence can be an around-the-clock issue. There are several non-wearable products that can help combat incontinence during times of inactivity.
Non-wearable incontinence products include the following:
- Bed pads. You can use pads just about anywhere, including on chairs, couches, beds or the floor. They are absorbent mats that come in a variety of sizes and you can place them in convenient locations around the home.
- Mattress cover. Mattress covers wrap around your entire mattress and are typically waterproof, hypoallergenic and odour resistant.
- Bedpans. Bedpans are typically for people who are immobile or bedridden and are often used in hospitals or care homes.
3 tips for using incontinence products
- See a doctor. If you have continence issues, you should discuss it with a doctor. They are most likely to steer you in the right direction and provide you with advice regarding the suitability of different incontinence products. They may even be able to give you some free sample products to try out.
- Try new products at home. It can be hard to tell if a product will work for you or if it's the right size until you try it. If you are concerned about leaking, try the product at home first to make sure it's right for you.
- Combine wearable and non-wearable products. If you don't like wearing wearable products all the time, consider using a mix of protective pads on furniture at home and wearables when you leave the house.