How to Choose the Best Incontinence Pads

Declan Davey

Written by Declan Davey on Tue Dec 29 2020.

How to Choose the Best Incontinence Pads

Did you know that incontinence affects between 4% and 8% of the global population? We’ll help you choose the best incontinence pads.

Thankfully, the design of incontinence pads has improved drastically over time. Not only are pads more absorbent than ever—but they’re also more discreet.

Why do many incontinence sufferers delay taking action, then?

A survey by the National Association for Continence found that people aren’t seeking medical advice when their incontinence issue begins.

Women wait an average of 6.5 years to see a healthcare professional after their loss of bladder control begins, while men hold off for 4.2 years.

If you’re dealing with the symptoms of incontinence, we want to make sure you don’t struggle on your own.

How Do Incontinence Pads Work?

Incontinence pads work by drawing moisture away from your skin. They’re the most popular choice to absorb urine or stool “leaks.”

As technology develops, incontinence pads are increasingly being customized by need. Some users prefer to use lighter options, whereas others require a more heavy-duty pad.

Most pads include an “acquisition layer” to allow leaks to enter the core of the material, where it can be safely stored. Odor prevention is another benefit that’s often on offer.

But before you buy a pad, here are a few key features to consider:

  • Can it soak up leaks?

  • Is it comfortable to wear?

  • Does it keep the skin dry?

  • Is it easily worn under normal clothing?

  • Does it contain odors?

If you want to see how an incontinence pad absorbs liquid, you can check out this short demonstration video:

What Is an Incontinence Pad?

How Often Do They Need to Be Changed?

The advice on this will depend on the frequency and severity of your incontinence. Most pads are efficient for 3-4 hours, so the general guideline is to change them 4-6 times a day

This may seem like a lot to go through in one day, but it’s vital to stay dry for maximum comfort. Always err on the side of caution and make sure to change before a pad becomes too wet.

Incontinence Pads vs. Menstrual Pads

Should you ever use a menstrual pad in place of an incontinence pad? The short answer is “no.”

As the National Association for Continence tells us, there are three main reasons why menstrual pads should never be used for managing incontinence:

  1. Different type of absorbency

    Menstrual and sanitary pads are only designed to contain the menstrual flow. Urine flow—which is more rapid and produces a larger amount of fluid—requires the use of an incontinence pad.

  2. Lack of odor control

    Menstrual pads don’t hold in the odors associated with leaked urine or stool like an incontinence pad does.

  3. Reduced skin protection

    Incontinence pads ensure that the acid content in urine is neutralized, a feature menstrual pads don’t provide

Can Incontinence Pads Cause Itching?

Yes. Improper use of incontinence pads can sometimes lead to painful symptoms such as itching. The itching is often a result of exposure to bacteria that’s found within urine and stool.

High levels of ammonia can increase the skin’s pH level and lead to skin erosion over time. There is a condition called incontinence-associated dermatitis (IAD), which occurs when your skin’s protective layer is damaged. The upper thighs and genital regions are particularly vulnerable areas among incontinence sufferers.

Make sure to keep a lookout for symptoms of IAD such as itching, burning, red patches, lesions, and pain.

Regular pad changes are advised to minimize the risks of incontinence pads causing itching. Also, avoid thick ointments and try not to use abrasive soaps or washcloths when cleaning.

Can Incontinence Pads Cause UTI or Yeast Infections?

There’s no doubt that urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections can be very uncomfortable to deal with. If you wear incontinence pads, proper maintenance is essential to reduce the chance of getting an infection.

Incontinence is known to be a possible cause of yeast infections, which typically involves red, itchy, and swollen skin. 

Absorbent pad users in nursing homes are known to be more at risk of developing UTIs. However, no correlation has been established between the number of pads used per day and an increased risk of UTIs.

How to Choose the Most Suitable Incontinence Pads?

Finding incontinence pads is easy enough nowadays, but choosing the right type of pad can be more difficult to figure out.

Although 9% of North Americans and 9.9% of Europeans experience urinary incontinence, the severity of symptoms differs from person to person. In this section, we’ll show you a few pad options based on specific health needs.

ReadWhat is a Topliner Booster Pad?

What Are the Most Absorbent Pads?

All incontinence pads should provide a level of absorbency. 

“But how much absorbency do I actually need?”

This is the question many incontinence sufferers aren’t sure about.

Pads with words such as “extra” or “maximum” in the product title tend to have greater absorbance. Make sure to double-check the absorbance rating, though.

Here are a few high-absorbance pads that the team at Carewell recommend:

TENA ProSkin Night Super Absorbent Pads

These pads are for heavy to very heavy urine and/or fecal incontinence. 

Although they’re titled “TENA Night,” bear in mind that they can also be used during the daytime.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Dry-Fast Core™ technology – a dual-core and super absorbent polymers – rapidly pulls urine away from the skin for greater security and skin dryness

  • Light and airy two-piece pad and pant system is open on the sides, allowing more airflow

  • The two-piece pad has a contoured core to promote improved comfort and leakage protection

  • The wetness indicator turns from yellow to blue, so there’s no need to open the product to find out if it needs changing

TENA Intimates Ultimate Absorbency Incontinence Pads

TENA Intimates™ Ultimate Regular Incontinence Pads are designed with triple protection against heavy stress or surge bladder leaks and odor-blocking. 

Their ProSkin™ Technology is 100% breathable to help protect sensitive, intimate skin.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • ProSkin™ Technology includes a soft top layer and 3D technology to draw liquid away and keep skin protected

  • Triple protection from leaks and odors

  • Soft foam side barriers create a secure and comfortable fit and help protect from leakage

  • Each pad has adhesive strips for added security and is individually wrapped for discretion

Incontinence Pads With Odor Control

While it should be noted that most incontinence pads supply a degree of odor control, some have advanced features that make them more effective than a standard pad.

Pads with advanced odor control features include:

McKesson Bladder Control Pads, Regular

McKesson Bladder Control Pads in Regular is a unisex pad with an adhesive strip that’s soft both inside and outside. 

It can also be worn with regular underwear.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Advanced dual-core reduces odor and locks in wetness

  • Individually wrapped in quiet, cloth-like packaging for on-the-go convenience

  • Clothlike topsheet and adhesive peel strip for a secure fit

  • Contoured shape for form-fitting comfort

  • Soft, cloth-like inner and outer material

TENA Women Super Plus Heavy

TENA® Women’s Super Plus has Advanced Odor Protection technology to control odors.

It also has a comfortable waistband that’s soft and stretchable, with cottony-soft material for maximum comfort and discretion.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Anatomically designed with extra protection to lock in liquids and odor

  • Super-absorbent polymers for advanced leakage protection during the day and night

  • Body-hugging fabric for a better fit and secure protection

  • Modern design and soft, tri-laminate material for maximum comfort

  • Feels like everyday underwear

Incontinence Pads With Gel

Market demand has increased for incontinence pads with gel.

The advantage of this style of pad is that liquid leaks are quickly turned into a gel. This enables the skin to remain dry as fluids get pulled away from the skin.

An incontinence pad with gel that we recommend is:

Prevail Pant Liner

With the Prevail Pant Liner, you get the peace of mind of having extra protection from its advanced absorbance.

MaxSorb gel locks away incontinence and turns leaked fluids into a gel substance, ensuring you feel dry and fresh. They can adapt to all shapes and sizes and also provide overnight support.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Full-length adhesive strip fastens to underwear for a fit that lasts all day or night long

  • MaxSorb gel soaks up moisture and turns it into a gel, so you feel dry

  • Omni odor-guard locks odors into the absorbent core, so you stay fresh and confident

  • Clothlike backing is breathable and completely silent

  • Overnight protection means this pant liner is designed for long-term protection, so you can rest peacefully through the night

Incontinence Pads for Feces

Are there any pads on the market that are fit to handle bowel (or fecal) incontinence?

You’ll be glad to know that, yes, there are!

You can find a couple of specially-designed pads below:

Abena Abri-San Special Pads

Ideal for both bowel incontinence and light urinary incontinence. 

Abena’s Abri-San Special Pad is a shaped pad that comes in a 15 x 29-inch pad and will fill to a capacity of 68 fl oz (8.5 cups). 

Note: The average adult releases 8-12 fl ounces (1-1½ cups) when they “go.”

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Cotton–feel, fully breathable backsheet

  • Soft and reliable flat lengthwise side barriers

  • TopDry system, providing a dry surface and rapid absorption

  • Odor system, minimizing any unpleasant smell

  • Wetness indicator turns a different color to let you know when it’s time for a change

Tranquility TopLiner Contour Booster Pads

The Tranquility TopLiner Contour Booster Pad is a great choice for those with bowel incontinence who don’t want to change their pull-ups.

They can be worn inside of another incontinence product, such as protective underwear. 

Another advantage is that they’re designed especially for larger bodies.

Key Benefits & Features:

  • Peach Mat Core locks up moisture, so your skin stays dry, odor-free and bacteria-free

  • An ideal economical solution to extend the life of your pull-up or tab-style diaper

  • Hourglass shape is contoured to fit larger bodies

Where to Buy Incontinence Pads in Bulk?

We get it—buying incontinence pads can get expensive.

It’s no wonder, then, that many pad wearers and family caregivers wonder where they can buy incontinence pads in bulk. Here are several bulk-buy deals you may want to consider:

Are Incontinence Pads Tax Deductible?

We’d love to say that the answer to this one is clear-cut, but the IRS guidelines on whether incontinence pads are tax deductible are open to interpretation.

In the IRS Medical and Dental Expenses Publication (known as Publication 502), this guideline is provided:

“You can’t include in medical expenses the amount you pay for diapers or diaper services unless they are needed to relieve the effects of a particular disease.”

So, if you’re using incontinence pads within an agreed treatment plan for a specific health condition, you may be able to make a claim.

The most sensible option is to discuss such matters with a tax advisor. 

Let’s tie things up with a short summary, shall we?


In today’s article, you’ve learned about:

  • How Incontinence Pads Work

  • How Often to Change Incontinence Pads

  • Reducing the Potential Risks of Pad Use (i.e. Itching)

  • How to Choose the Best Pad for You

  • Special Types of Pad 

  • Where to Buy Incontinence Pads in Bulk 

  • Whether Incontinence Pads Are Tax Deductible

It’s easy to feel a bit overwhelmed when trying to decide on the best incontinence pad for your health needs.

Don’t let the process be confusing or stressful any longer—save time and energy by contacting our experienced team for advice. Call (855) 855-1666 or email

Read NextHow to manage incontinence at work, like a boss.

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Declan Davey
Declan Davey

Declan Davey is a health and wellness copywriter from London, UK. His background includes roles as a psychological therapist for Islington Memory Service, where he worked with family caregivers, and as a rehab assistant at Camden Neurology & Stroke Service.