Should You Use Sanitary Pads For Incontinence?


Managing urinary incontinence bears some similarity to female sanitation in certain aspects since you have to do certain things to protect yourself from embarrassing leaks and stains.

But that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Many women who deal with incontinence believe that they can use period pads because a pad is a pad right? WRONG!

Let’s clear up these misconceptions and let you in a few secrets, shall we?

What are the different types of urinary incontinence?


In a general sense, urinary incontinence can be described as the loss of bladder control. Simply stated you, accidentally leak urine.

Here are six main different types of urinary incontinence.

1.Stress incontinence

Stress incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence to affect women. As the name suggests, it is caused by stress, but not stress like worrying about something or feeling pressured. This type of stress is caused by stress or pressure on the bladder, usually caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. When pelvic floor muscles are weak, actions such as coughing, laughing and sneezing can cause them to put pressure on the urethra and bladder. The result is an involuntary leakage of urine.

2. Urge (overflow) incontinence

The word urge suggests that something is strong or sudden. With this type of incontinence, there is an overwhelming need to urinate as much as eight times a day, however, it happens unexpectedly and it can take too long to get to the bathroom. Often, the amount of urine that is expelled is so small compared to the urge that was felt.

3. Mixed incontinence

This is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.

4. Overflow incontinence

This type of incontinence happens where the bladder is full but only small amounts of urine leaks out at a time. This happens when there is some sort of blockage of the urethra or in persons with diabetes or spinal issues.

5. Functional incontinence

This type of incontinence is not necessarily due to bladder issues, but happens because someone is physically unable to get to the bathroom because of disorders or conditions such as arthritis that make moving quickly difficult or impossible.

6. Reflex incontinence

Reflex incontinence happens when the muscles of the bladder contract and relax without any indication of that taking place. There is no urge because of nerve damage due to radiation, surgery, multiple sclerosis, spinal injury or other injuries that cause neurological impairment. The nerves that were formally responsible for telling the brain that it is time to empty the bladder no longer do so and thus there is no control over urination.

This article will focus primarily on stress incontinence and how to manage it with incontinence pads and other things you can keep handy.


What are pads made of?


Pads are made of absorbent materials that prevent blood, discharge or urine from staining clothing. The moisture is held within these pads until they are changed after a few hours.


Different kinds of pads


There are different kinds of pads for different purposes. They can take different forms and can have different named but at the end of the day, they are still pads. Here are the ones you need to know about:


What are Sanitary pads?


Sanitary pads or maxi pads are designed to be used during your period, after giving birth or when recovering from gynecological surgery. These are single-use products that absorb menstrual fluid and come in different shapes and sizes depending on how heavy your flow is.

Thin sanitary pads are sometimes called panty liners and are used for light spotting or to prevent discharge from ruining underwear.

Some sanitary pads are reusable and are made of cloth. These are washed after each use, dried and reused for as long as they are useful.


What are Incontinence pads?


Incontinence pads or bladder control pads are specially designed with Super Absorbent Polymers (SAPs) that turn into a gel and expand when they come in contact with urine. These absorb urine up to 4x faster and locks them in until the pad is changed.

So what’s the difference?


Sanitary pads do not have the same degree of absorbency as incontinence pads. With sanitary pads, the moisture sits on top and remains damp which can cause skin irritation and discomfort.

Incontinence pads feature an elastic barrier that not only prevents leaks but makes for a better fit. Sanitary pads do not typically offer this.

Incontinence pads also have a specially designed top sheet and distribution layer for the rapid flow of urine. On the other hand, sanitary pads feature an open design for thick liquids.

As it relates to odor control, sanitary pads merely mask the smell of blood. Incontinence pads don’t do that. Instead, they neutralize odors.

Sanitary pads are not effective for urinary incontinence, however, urinary incontinence pads can be used for sanitation purposes.


Period and incontinence panties

Period and incontinence panties look and feel like regular panties and can come in different sizes and styles, even thongs.


Period panties are similar to reusable sanitary pads, however, instead of being worn inside of the panty, the panty itself is fully absorbent.

These can be worn for 8-12 hours but as you already know this all depends on how heavy your flow is and can hold up to four tampons worth of blood.

Incontinence panties are the same concept, however, they hold urine instead and pull the moisture away from the skin. They can come in reusable or disposable forms and hold up to eight teaspoons of urine.

Incontinence panties are for women who don’t leak a lot but experience occasional leaks and prefer to be safe than sorry. If you leak frequently and heavily, try an adult diaper.


Incontinence diaper (adult diaper)


It can be embarrassing to have to take up incontinence diapers from the aisle especially since it can make you feel old.

However, they tend to have a better fit and are less likely to leak. They are also one of the easiest incontinence products to source.




Underpads are large highly-absorbent pads placed on top of bed, chairs and other absorbent furniture for protection. Some underpads are single-use while others can be washed and reused after being soiled.

The quick, dry surface ensures that you won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to a wet bed and you won’t wake up with a rash in the morning from sitting or sleeping in the urine.

Underpads come with varying absorbency levels from light to overnight and can even be useful for persons who suffer from fecal incontinence as well. They generally hold a half a day’s worth of urine and have to be changed at least twice a day.


Washable versus disposable products


Washable products generally have a greater upfront cost, however, they will save you money in the long run. They are also less likely to cause skin irritation unless they are not washed properly.

Washable products are also eco-friendly and are perfect for stay-at-home moms and retirees.

Disposable products have a cheap initial cost but the amount of money you spend in a year on these products is much lower than what you would spend on disposable products. These products are likely to contain chemicals that used to neutralize odors which can cause skin irritation.

Disposable products are made with advanced technology and are likely to be better at absorbing urine. They also have better odor control and are easier to clean up.

If you have sensitive skin, you are better off with washable products. However, if you do not have the time to or are physically unable to wash these products after every use then you are better off with disposable products.


How to protect your bed


Protect your bed by buying underpads to use on top of your linen to protect them from getting soaked with urine. You can choose between adhesive underpads that have sticky edges or bottoms to keep the underpad in place or winged underpads that are tucked underneath the mattress. The latter is more reliable.

The linen you use should also be super absorbent in case the pads leak, to prevent urine from soaking your mattress.

Sure you can also wash sheets but it is much more of a headache to get the urine smell out of a mattress. For extra protection, you can wear an incontinence pad or panty to bed. If you have heavy leaks, you can wear a diaper instead.


How to protect your clothes


The best way to protect your clothes is by wearing an adult diaper. This will offer full protection against leaks.

A pad or panty can work as well but these are more likely to leak than a diaper, especially when you move around a lot, or if the pads don’t have wings.

It is always a good idea to wear darker clothing since they hide wet marks better than light clothing. Choose absorbent materials such as cotton that will prevent the urine from leaking onto couches or other absorbent surfaces.

If urine does manage to get to your clothes, try to wash them as quickly as possible since urine can cause a stain. This will save your favorite panties or shorts from being ruined forever.


How to protect your skin


The best way to protect your skin from the effects of urine leaks is by changing your incontinence products regularly.

Do not leave pads or panties on for longer than is recommended and do not reuse disposable products. If you are in public and have to change your pad or panty, keep wipes handy to help keep your skin clean.

After wearing adult diapers, it is always recommended to bathe or wipe the area before putting on a new one. Do not wear them for extended periods and allow your skin to breathe.


What if I leak during my period?


If you have bladder leaks during your period, try using a tampon with a bladder leak pad. You may also use an incontinence pad for both but remember to change it frequently since the blood will sit on the top.

Final word


Wearing the right products for urinary incontinence is not something you should take lightly. Sure, period pads may be cheaper but is it worth the risk of embarrassment? Is it worth the skin irritation or infection that you put yourself at risk of getting?

There are so many incontinence products to choose from so this should never be a problem.

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