Any menstruating or formally menstruating woman knows the trials and tribulations of the pad. Usually, pads are introduced to us early in life in our middle school sex ed classes as a “sanitary napkin”. These products are designed to absorb period blood and other fluids so that women can go about their day without the concern that they’ll ruin clothing or other surfaces. Post-child bearing years, after menopause, many women assume that their relationships with pads and pantiliners are in the past only to find themselves purchasing them again, only this time to help with absorbing bladder leaks!
Pads for Light Bladder LeaksWhile both menstrual and incontinence pads are similar in shape, placement, and materials, the two products are pretty different, and should not be used interchangeably. National Incontinence fully explains the difference: “The main difference between the two pads is the type of fluid they’re meant to absorb. Menstrual pads are designed to absorb menstrual flow, which comes out much slower than urine. Bladder control pads, on the other hand, are designed to absorb the rapid dispersion of urine. They’re made with polymer fabrics that pull moisture away from the skin so that you stay dry, comfortable, and odor-free. Bladder control pads neutralize acidic urine, which can cause skin rashes if left unchanged.” Incontinence pads can be found in the same aisle as sanitary napkins or feminine hygiene products, so it is important to distinguish between the two types before purchasing.
Pad ProsAs much as many women dread the idea of using pads, especially years after they’re done menstruating, there can be some plus sides to using pads and liners as a way to help with light bladder leaks! Convenient - Pads and pantiliners are convenient to use. You can slip them in your purse or wallet for on-the-go use, and you can change anywhere there is a restroom. Easy - Most women have been familiar with how to use a pad for decades by the time they develop light bladder leaks, making use and disposal so easy it’s almost second nature. Universal - Both men and women may develop different kinds of urinary incontinence that can vary in symptoms and causes, which may alter treatment plans and medications. Pads and liners can be used to hide leaks regardless of what kind of urinary incontinence you have! Variety - Much like menstrual pads, incontinence pads come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, absorption power, etc. so that you can choose what is right and most comfortable to you. Accessible - Pads are available at almost any drug store, major retailer, and even grocery stores, unlike some devices and tools made for incontinence. Plus, you don’t need a prescription or health insurance to purchase the products, making them widely accessible.
Pad ConsPads are certainly one great solution for those suffering from light bladder leaks, but they do come with their downsides: Expensive - All of those pads and liners add up over time! According to Wound Management and Prevention, “Incontinence supplies can easily cost well over $200 to $300 per month at a minimum.” These products can become increasingly difficult to afford for seniors after retirement. Wasteful - Around 20 years ago, it was estimated that incontinence products made up less than 1% of landfills. Now, that number is at an estimated 7% and growing. Changing is a MUST - Unfortunately, you can’t just put on one pad in the morning and expect to be dry and comfortable all day. Changing pads is vital to protecting against odor, irritation, and infections. Uncomfortable - Some people don’t use incontinence pads simply because they find them bulky and uncomfortable to wear. In addition, some people may feel embarrassed because they think that their pad is visible through their clothes.
Alternative SolutionsIf pads aren’t chalking up to be your thing to help with light bladder leaks, there are plenty of other solutions out there! Talk with your doctor about your symptoms so they can help you find a treatment plan based on what kind of urinary incontinence you may be facing, and what will work the best for your lifestyle. They may suggest one or more of the following solutions for you:
- Pelvic floor training: Kegels or other exercises may help strengthen the pelvic floor (the group of muscles and tissue that help support the bladder and regulate the flow of urine). While these are natural, safe, and easy to do, results may take weeks to months to be seen.
- Medications: Your doctor may prescribe certain medications to help reduce leaks, depending on the diagnosis. For example, medications like oxybutynin (Ditropan XL), tolterodine (Detrol), may be used to help OAB or urge incontinence while Mirabegron (Myrbetriq) is exclusively used to alleviate symptoms of urge incontinence.
- Hormonal solutions: Topical estrogen may be prescribed to help women suffering from urinary incontinence. The hormone is used to line the tissues supporting the urethra.