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Incontinence Products for Women - What Are Your Options?

Today's Options in Women's Incontinence Products

Ready or not, ladies, let's talk about what incontinence products are available for women these days. Fact is, since we’re used to leaking, we already have lots of experience with protective underwear and absorbent products! From the time our periods started most of us have used disposables - tampons and pads.

Then, as we experience incontinence issues, it feels natural to stay with disposables -- pads or pull-up incontinence diapers/briefs. They work. They’re convenient, and pretty much second nature to us.

So, disposables have been the dominant period and incontinence products women have relied on for leak protection. Now there are other options.

And, like most things in life, each product has pros and cons. Deciding which to use is a matter of weighing the trade-offs between the products that fit your needs and lifestyle.

Our goal here is to let you know the range of options available, and provide you with the info you need to select what's best for you. So, here goes.

Here's what's available. Many will be familiar, but you may find some new options to consider.

description of incontinence product options for women

How do they compare overall?

comparison chart of incontinence underwear products for women

incontinence products for women legend for comparison chart

Pros and Cons of these Incontinence Products for Women

pros and cons of various incontinence underwear products for women

How do I choose the incontinence underwear product that's best for me?

These are the main factors to take into consideration, and we’ll provide insights on each to arm you with the info you need to make an informed choice.

process graphic - how to choose the women's incontinence product that's best for you

Consider what level of absorbency you need.

It can be hard to match your need to a product's absorbency level since every day can be different, and every leak may not be the exact same amount. Even knowing how many ounces or teaspoons a product can handle may not be that helpful — who really knows how many teaspoons a few drops or a dribble of pee is?

So, to help you determine which absorbency level is right for you, our approach is to provide you with the knowledge, and some practical guidelines, to help you choose.

Let's start with the factors related to 'sizing' your leak situation, they are:

  1. the volume of each leak - drip, dribble, light leak, heavy leak, stream
  2. how often you leak
  3. the total amount accumulated, and, resulting from leak frequency, how quickly the accumulation occurs

With this in mind, here are some practical guidelines to help you determine what absorbency level you need:

Firstly, if you have limited or low-mobility we recommended you go up a level to ensure you’re protected until you get to the bathroom. This is also a safety decision — if you are not rushing in a panic there’s less chance of tripping and falling.

Light Absorbency should work well for you in the following situations:

  • Stress incontinence. Episodic drips or leaks when there’s pressure applied to your bladder - like when you sneeze or lift something heavy
  • Occasional or sporadic involuntary drips/dribbles. Involuntary drips or light dribbles over the course of the day

Choose Moderate Absorbency in these situations:

  • Frequent drips and dribbles. You have involuntary, frequent drips and dribbles, or if you have leaks but they are spaced out over the course of the day
  • Away from a Bathroom. You will be away from a bathroom for an extended period of time, sailing, golfing, traveling, etc.

Choose the high/highest capacity if:

  • You have heavier leaks or frequent dribbles that add up fast
  • You have very limited bladder control
  • You need help to getting to the bathroom (Why risk a leak while you wait?)

As you evaluate a product's absorbency capacity, and how Brands describe them, here are a couple of important things to keeps in mind:

  • Some companies make claims on absorbency capacity that don’t stand up in the real world since they’re tested under super specific, controlled conditions. For example, some products claim to hold 10 ounces; it’s a true claim, but only if leaks are in small amounts over 8-10 hours. So, buyer beware, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Product absorbency capacity varies from Brand to Brand, even if a product is called the same thing. For example, one Brand's 'Moderate Absorbency' product may have only a couple absorbent layers/thin absorbent pad, whereas here at Zorbies our moderate absorbent product has 6 absorbent layers, plus a waterproof layer, plus the outer shell, 8 in total.

So, as you evaluate products, dig into the detail. And also, of course, check their reviews. Don't rely only on reviews on the Brand's site. Do a search to see if there are any independent reviews or comments so you have the full picture.

Material and Coverage

incontinence products for women blog image - stack of disposable diapers

Disposables: As we said in the Pros and Cons section, these are made of paper and plastic, and most use chemicals for absorption - they turn fluids into a gel. So, if that's any concern to you, add it to your list of considerations.

The other thing to know is that these chemicals don’t degrade easily. So, on top of the plastic, they are an additional burden going into to the landfills.

Cotton: Cotton maybe the best known and loved fabric in the world, but, in our opinion, not for incontinence underwear. Why?

Because cotton actually does too good a job of absorbing and retaining liquid. So, what’s wrong with that? It doesn’t dry as quickly as the high-performance fabrics in the new brands, like Zorbies. And that leaves you wet and soggy.

Also, cotton is a thicker fabric which makes 100% cotton women's incontinence products, especially the higher absorbency levels, quite bulky.

incontinence products for women - coverage area graphic

Coverage: All products have coverage in the obvious area, but take note of how far up the front and back the coverage goes, and how wide it is.

More coverage means there’s more area to handle leaks, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the product is bulky.

The high-quality technical fabrics these days are thin, but high-performing, so can be low profile even with lots of layers, in a large area.

 

Lifestyle and Comfort

incontinence products for women lifestyle considerations blog image - 4 women with yoga mats leaving an outdoor class

Once you’ve determined what absorbency level you need — and that is THE most important factor — the next considerations are lifestyle and comfort.

comfort and lifestyle comparison of incontinence products for women

In our experience washables always win over disposables on both fronts. Here’s why:

  • They feel better. Made out of fabrics, not paper, washables are naturally more comfortable because they feel like underwear.
  • They’re more discreet. The new brands are less bulky which means they don’t show under clothes, so you’ll have a normal ‘profile’
  • They can even be stylish. The new style incontinence underwear looks like real underwear and can even be quite fashionable. So go ahead, change your clothes in the gym or at the club. No one will ever know.
  • They’re a better alternative for exercise and activities. Washable incontinence underwear is way more comfortable than disposables for exercise because many are made from the same type of technical materials used in regular sports underwear. We can only speak for Zorbies here, but during exercise Zorbies will stretch comfortably with you, still giving you a nice hug and secure fit.

Cost

This is the type of product that 'you need what you need', so cost isn't the primary factor in choosing. However, it's still always good to understand the cost comparison so you can give cost the appropriate weight in your decision.

women's incontinence underwear products cost comparison chart

You may be surprised to see that disposables can actually be more costly than washables. That's because washable incontinence underwear seems like it costs more since a single pair of high-quality reusable briefs can cost $25 - $40, compared to a $30 - 50 pack of disposables where you may get 50, or even 90 briefs.

But, over the course of a year, the cost of disposables really adds up. You just may not notice it since it happens $30 at a time, spaced out over monthly or maybe even quarterly purchases.

That's the cost to your wallet.

Then, notice that each person using just 2 disposable briefs per day adds 730 plastic briefs to our landfills per year. That's a different kind of 'cost'...to our earth.

Disposable or Reusable - Which Incontinence Product Should I Choose?

Taking the key decision factors into consideration here's where things net out:

comparison chart of key decision factors in choosing disposable or reusable incontinence products for women

Washable, reusable incontinence products have the edge over disposables, except for:
  • Having high absorbency level options, and
  • Maybe coverage. Coverage in reusable products varies by Brand, so disposables can have better coverage than many reusables that have small coverage areas. 

Maybe this is a bit of a surprise since we've been so used to disposables!

But it makes sense because fabric underwear is just more comfortable in so many ways; they're nice and soft, discreet and even stylish, better for exercise and activities and just more 'natural' to wear. And, over the course of a year, less expensive.

In conclusion:

  • If you need protection from heavy leaks or leaks that add up fast, disposables are your best option
  • For light to moderate needs quality washable, reusable incontinence products are a great option. And, once you find the one that's right for you, you'll probably find them more comfortable than disposables. Hopefully the info we've provided here will help you find a great fit.