How to Choose the Best Incontinence Underwear & Adult Diapers

April 14, 2021

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Over 25 million Americans are dealing with incontinence every day. As an incontinence manufacturer, we understand how challenging it can be to find the right product, especially without support or advice. We help wearers and caregivers every day find solutions that work for them. If you or someone you care for are new to incontinence or struggling to find a product that meets your needs, use this guide to help navigate the incontinence market.

Why Are Incontinence Products Needed?

When children or adults experience incontinence (involuntary bladder or bowel leakage), they have a few options to treat this condition. First, incontinence is a condition, and it is often a result of another medical condition or disease. For adults, incontinence can be the result of childbirth, an enlarged prostate, cancer or other diseases affecting the bladder, nerve damage, memory loss, a developmental disability, or other medical challenges.

The primary treatments for urinary incontinence are lifestyle changes, medication, surgery, medical devices, muscle training, and absorbent products. While absorbent products are more of a management solution than a treatment, they also offer the lowest risk of side effects. Millions of Americans use absorbent products every day to manage incontinence.

Top 5 Incontinence Underwear and Adult Diaper Considerations

When it comes to how to choose the best incontinence underwear or adult diaper, there are five primary considerations. Depending on your situation, lifestyle, and preference, these considerations will shift in level of importance for each individual or caregiver. For those on a budget, cost and absorbency are all that can really matter; for others, material and style may be more important.

#1 Absorbency

At Tranquility, we strongly recommend wearers and caregivers consider absorbency needs when choosing an absorbent underwear for urinary incontinence. Far too often we hear stories about soiled linens, long nights of accidents, laundry, leaks in public, and more. While there may be multiple reasons for poor product performance, often it is because of a low-absorbency product. We know it is not easy… the use of terms like “super,” “maximum,” and “ultra” can make it challenging. Plus, the use of raindrops to showcase absorbency level doesn’t help.

When possible, look for definitively printed absorbency levels like the cups shown here. While you may not know your exact urine output, it allows you to understand your absorbency level without having to guess.

A recent statistic from the National Association for Continence stated that people with incontinence try an average of seven different products before finding one that works for them. We believe this is primarily due to challenges with finding the correct absorbency.

#2 Style

There are two styles of incontinence underwear, pull-on style and tape-tab style. Pull-on style – you guessed it – pull on like traditional underwear. Tape-tab style products, also known as disposable briefs, utilize tape-tabs to adhere, similar to how baby diapers are applied. A few factors go into determining which style you or someone you care for may prefer.

Personal Preference

Many wearers of incontinence underwear already have a preference of product style. If you are new to incontinence products, many adults who have worn traditional underwear prefer pull-on style disposable products. Since they are pulled on and off, pull-on style incontinence underwear allows individuals who can still use the toilet the ability to continue doing so.

Alternatively, some individuals and caregivers prefer the tape-tab style brief. This style can be securely fastened multiple times and does not require stepping into the product as with pull-on style products. Tape-tab style products are widely used in nursing homes and care facilities for incontinence management

ATN Product Features

Level of Mobility

A persons’ level of mobility can also help determine what style of incontinence underwear is best. For adults with limited mobility or who must remain in bed, tape-tab style adult diapers make it easier for caregivers to change the product.

For adults who are mobile and can still self-toilet, pull-on style is typically the preference. Since it requires stepping into the product like traditional underwear, pull-on style requires more mobility than tape-tab style.

Memory Loss

Memory loss is another consideration when choosing product style. We have learned from feedback and conversations with caregivers that adults with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease prefer pull-on style incontinence underwear. Pull-on style underwear is worn like traditional underwear and is therefore easier for adults with memory loss to wear. Plus, pull-on style underwear can be easily pulled down if the individual would like to self-toilet, promoting independence, while providing protection against accidents.

One challenge with tape-tab style underwear for adults with memory loss is that they can feel the tabs and often attempt to loosen them, occasionally causing accidents. Therefore, if you are caring for someone with memory loss, start by trying a pull-on style incontinence underwear.

Interested in the distinction between Alzheimer’s and dementia? Check out our blog explaining the difference.

#3 Material

Another important consideration is the material used for the outside layer (also called backsheet). The two primary materials are clothlike and poly-backed. Poly-backed incontinence underwear are made with a plastic backing, the same material used for most baby diapers. Alternatively, clothlike incontinence underwear are made with a clothlike material that is soft and rustle-free. Clothlike products can also be “breathable,” meaning they allow air to circulate, which promotes skin health.

When it comes to selecting a material, it is mostly a matter of personable preference. Most products on the market today are clothlike, many of those being designed with breathable fabric. However, many poly-backed products remain, as some consumers continue to prefer the plastic-backed style due to the sense of security it provides them.

Poly-backed products are only available in tape-tab style products, whereas clothlike incontinence underwear is made in both pull-on and tape-tab styles.

Most incontinence underwear and adult diapers are latex-free. However, if you are allegoric to latex or prefer latex-free products, be sure to verify the product you use is latex-free.

#4 Size

Size is extremely important to product performance. It will be hard to determine the right product for you or someone you care for if the wrong size is purchased.

There is a misconception that larger sizes hold more urine. While this may appear true (many of our larger sizes have greater capacity), wearing the proper size is critical to performance. Too large of a size creates openings that cause leaks from the legs and waist. Many wearers and caregivers attribute leaks and accidents to the brand/style/absorbency of the product, when the problem may actually be the size.

Be sure to closely follow the manufacturer’s sizing guide to ensure a proper fit. Here are examples of a sizing guide and a tip on how to measure the body to determine sizing.

How to Measure – Measure Widest Part of Your Body Between Waist and Hips

A wearer’s size, particularly those requiring Youth or Bariatric sizes, may dictate the product style and material that are available. However, manufacturers continue to innovate to offer more expanded size ranges to these groups.

#5 Cost

While cost may be the first consideration for some, we urge wearers and caregivers to abide by the old saying, “you get what you pay for.” While lower-cost products may work well for some, we have received hundreds of testimonials from wearers and caregivers – typically those with heavy incontinence – explaining their challenges with these items. If cost is a major consideration for you, reach out to the manufacturer to see if they can provide any support or product recommendations. Combining a highly absorbent booster pad with a lower-cost incontinence underwear could meet the absorbency needs without significantly increasing cost.

For those on a limited income, quality products are available through Medicaid, waivers, and even adult diaper banks.

The Tranquility Product Finder

The Tranquility Product Finder was created to help incontinent individuals and/or their caregivers find the right Tranquility product for each individual need. The product finder uses similar considerations as above to narrow down possible products for you by asking a few questions.

Step 1: Gender

Start by selecting your gender. If you are a caregiver, answer all the questions on behalf of the person you care for (i.e., “what is your care recipients’ gender?”).

Step 2: What Product Style Do You Prefer?

Next, select the product style you prefer. The two most popular styles of incontinence underwear are Disposable Pull-on Underwear and Tab-Style Briefs.

If you are unsure of what style you prefer, contact our Care Team for support. They will help and can send you sample packs to try! You can also take our online survey to receive a free sample.

Step 3: How Much Absorbency Do You Need?

In Step 3, you are asked to indicate the level of absorbency you need. A variety of absorbency options are displayed, since absorbency needs are vast for urinary incontinence. If you are unsure of the level of absorbency you need, you can select “Don’t Know” to see a broader range of product options.

For assistance, here are some examples of different absorbency levels.

“Dribbles – Light”: You leak small amounts of urine when you laugh, cough, sneeze, exercise, dance, etc.

“Partial Void – Moderate”: You occasionally leak larger amounts of urine and have a sudden need or rush to urinate.

“Gush/Full Void – Heavy”: You regularly leak larger amounts of urine, such as full voids, and often experience a sudden need or rush to urinate.

“Multiple Voids – Maximum”: You regularly leak larger amounts of urine, such as full voids, and multiple episodes occur in a short period of time.

“Don’t Know”: You are unsure of how much urine leaks and don’t know what level of protection is needed.

“N/A – Fecal Only”: You only experience fecal incontinence and do not need absorbency for urine loss.

Step 4: What is your Size?

Next, the Product Finder asks for your waist/hip measurement in inches. The options range from X-Small (17-28 inches) up to 5X-Large (70-108 inches). Please see the How to Measure graphic. To assist you in ensuring a proper fit and no leaks, be sure to measure the widest part of your body. For some bodies, this will be at the hips; for others, it may be higher at the waist. It’s also important to note that “Medium” in incontinence underwear may not be the same “medium” as traditional underwear.

How to Measure – Measure Widest Part of Your Body Between Waist and Hips

Step 5: Recommended Products for You

After completing Step 1-4, you will be shown the product(s) that are recommended for you! Click on “Select options” to view additional product information and to advance to order samples.

How to Choose the Best Incontinence Underwear Pro-Tip: Try Samples!

We offer free 2-pack samples is because we have found that sampling products is the best way to find the right product for you. After learning the 4 Reasons to Sample Incontinence Products, navigate our website to order samples or contact us and we’ll work with you to send your recommended product sample packs.