Women and incontinence

Around 25 million Americans are affected by urinary incontinence. Of those, the National Association For Continence (NAFC) estimates that 75-80% are women.

Urinary incontinence isn’t inevitable due to age or other risk factors. But for those who do experience episodes of bladder control loss, there are plenty of options to manage leakage.


Symptoms of urinary incontinence

  • Urge to use the bathroom, even if your bladder isn’t full
  • Need to urinate more frequently than usual
  • Waking up during the night frequently to urinate
  • Pain when you use the bathroom
  • Urinating while asleep


Causes of incontinence in women

There are a number of causes of urinary incontinence in women. In general, some common causes of accidental leakage include the following:

  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles (childbirth may affect these muscles)
  • Weight gain – the extra pounds can put added pressure on the muscles that control urine output
  • Medical conditions such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis
  • Medications
  • Urinary tract infections
  • There may not be a definite cause

Please note: You should talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about leakage.


Incontinence products for women

Absorbing leakage

Pads/panty liners: These can be inserted into your regular underwear for light to moderate leakage absorbency.

Mesh or knit pant: Designed to be used with a pad or liner – these reusable, washable pants hold the pad in place.

Protective underwear: Like regular underwear, these products pull on and off and can absorb moderate to heavy leakage.

Adult briefs: Also called diapers, these briefs have tabs on the sides so they’re easy to put on and remove. Available in a wide range of absorbencies.

Belted undergarments: For added security, belted undergarments offer moderate to heavy incontinence protection.

Underpads: To keep urine from damaging wheelchairs, beds and furniture, underpads can be used to absorb leakage and reduce odor.


Managing urine output

Intermittent catheters: An individual or caregiver can insert an intermittent catheter at certain times throughout the day (as instructed by a doctor) to drain the bladder of urine; the catheter does not remain in the bladder.

Indwelling (Foley) catheters: Indwelling catheters can remain in the bladder for longer periods of time and empty into a urine collection device. These catheters have a small balloon at the insertion end, which after insertion is inflated with a small amount of water to hold the catheter in place within the bladder. Indwelling catheters may be kept insider the bladder for one month before being changed. A health care professional will insert and remove an indwelling catheter.

Female urethral insert: A female urethral insert gently glides into the urethra and creates a soft seal at the bladder neck to prevent stress incontinence. Your doctor will need to fit you for this device and explain how to insert and remove it. 

Pessary: A stiff ring inserted into the vagina to support bladder muscles and prevent leakage. Your doctor prescribes this device.


Related articles:
How do I choose the right incontinence absorption product for me?
Leak protection while at work & play
Common questions and answers about incontinence