Updated 25 July 2016

How to choose the best absorbency product for you

When it comes to choosing an absorbency product to manage incontinence, there are a number of important factors to consider, such as level of absorbency and odour control. Here is how to make the right choice.

Incontinence is a topic of conversation that is often avoided, even though it is actually quite common and can be treated or managed very effectively.

While incontinence can be treated through surgical procedure in many cases, it is often only considered when there is a considerable degree of inconvenience or when it has a significant impact on the patient’s quality of life, according to an article published in Reviews in Urology.

Patients are usually treated more conservatively at first, using options such as bladder training, electrical stimulation, biofeedback and pelvic floor strengthening exercises, according to an article written by Dr Z Abdool and published in South African Family Practice. Regardless of treatment, most incontinence patients will need to use absorbency products either temporarily or permanently.

As people are reluctant to talk about incontinence, many aren’t actually aware of what products are available to help them manage their condition. Fortunately there are a number of different solutions available, ranging from discrete liners to underwear with maximum absorbency.

When choosing the correct incontinence product for you, there are a number of important factors to consider:

Type of incontinence

There are different products for urinary incontinence and faecal incontinence. Urinary incontinence absorbency products are not always the correct shape and are usually not absorbent enough to effectively manage faecal incontinence.

Faecal incontinence products are usually in the form of full underwear rather than pads to provide better coverage. They also have greater levels of absorption than bladder incontinence products.

Read: Types of urinary incontinence

Your gender

There are different products for male and female incontinence. The main difference between male and female absorbency products are the shape and design. Choosing a product that is designed specifically for your gender ensures a better fit and reduces the chances of any leakage.

Absorbency level required

For urinary incontinence, some people only lose a few drops whilst others have total incontinence, which is why there are different products for light, medium, heavy and total incontinence.

You may be tempted to use ordinary sanitary pads, but to feel 100% secure it is important to use a product actually designed for incontinence. Sanitary pads are not designed to absorb as rapidly, or to absorb as much as incontinence products.

For those with lighter incontinence, there are extremely thin, discrete products available that will provide adequate absorption and protection for you. It is therefore unnecessary to wear a bulkier version. For those with heavier incontinence, greater protection may be more important than discretion.

Most products have an indicator of their absorbency level on the packaging – look out for this and select the absorbency level that best matches your level of incontinence. These are normally marked "light", "medium" and "heavy".

Read: Controlling urinary incontinence

Odour control

Odour is a factor that concerns many people who suffer from incontinence. Luckily, there are now a number of products with odour control technology on the market.

These products are designed to minimise odour, giving you greater peace of mind as you go about your daily life. If you’re concerned about odour, make sure your product has some form of odour control.

Dry technology

Skin infection, inflammation and irritation in the genital and buttocks area is a frequently occurring issue in those with incontinence, according Medline Plus. This is often a result of excess moisture in those areas. This is particularly risky for those who are bedridden as it increases their risk of developing bed sores.

For these reasons, it is important to look for products with faster drying technology. These products have moisture wicking capabilities, meaning that they draw moisture away from the skin, according to National Incontinence.

Also look out for products that dry very quickly, even instantly, and therefore reduce your chances of skin irritation and infection.

Washable or disposable

There are washable products available that feel more like regular underwear. Unfortunately these products often don’t have the same level absorption as disposable alternatives. They also usually do not have the same odour control, moisture wicking and dryness technology that the disposable absorbency products offer.

Some people also don't like the idea of washing and reusing products, preferring to rather dispose of them once used.

Whatever your preferences or requirements, you may need to try a few different products to find the one that bests suits you. Some brands offer samples, allowing you to try different products before you purchase – look out for these online.

Read more:

Urinary incontinence in menopause
How to treat bedwetting
Over half of seniors affected by incontinence

Image: choosing an incontinence product, from Shutterstock


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules