Field Guide: incontinence pads and pants and knickers

Field Guide: incontinence pads and pants

Trying to stay dry with bladder leakage? Not sure what will work best for you – incontinence pads or pants?  Overwhelmed by the choices in the shops and online? This detailed post & video discusses all the options and explains the difference between them. Don’t waste money buying the wrong thing. Tips and tricks to feel safe and dry without irritating your skin.

This is a practial, unbiased, useful overview of incontinence protection products, to help you decide what might suit you best.

Even a few drips or spurts when you cough or sneeze (stress incontinence) can quickly make your knickers feel wet and uncomfortable. It’s natural to worry that it has gone through onto your clothes and be anxious that everyone can see what has happened.  Irritable bladders can catch you short before you make it to the toilet, or even unexpectedly empty without much warning (urge incontinence). Those leaks can be very big. 

 Fear makes you avoid doing things.  Feeling anxious takes the edge off life and motherhood.  Let’s start by making you feel safe.  #No More Miserable Mums.

full disclosure: this article contains some affiliate links marked*. As an amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you make a purchase by clicking through from an affiliate link I receive a small commission  at no further cost to you. Thank you, this helps to support this blog.

#1.  Disposable incontinence pads

Sanitary pads and incontinence pads are not made of the same thing.  It is important to use a pad designed for bladder leakage not menstruation.

The products designed to be used for menstruation are great for that purpose. However, they do not to cope well with liquid.  This is because they are predominantly cottonwool based. So if they get wet, they just go soggy and misshapen. If you are moving about they can get scrunched up, rub,  and leave your skin in contact with urine causing chafing and soreness.

The right pads for the task are worth the little bit of extra cost.   With the advent of new technology you will be amazed how slim a proper bladder leakage pad can be to hold a large amount of liquid, keep damp away from your skin and control smell.  


Products for incontinence are usually in the same ‘feminine hygiene’ aisle (or website section of an online store) separated into one column of shelves for products for periods and one for bladder leakage.

Most brands will send you free samples from their websites.  Collect them up and see which suit you best!

disposable incontinence pads

Some of the main UK brands are Tena, Always, Attends, Poise, as well as supermarket own-brands and Boots’ StayDry range

How much urine leakage do incontinence pads hold?

The most common indicator of absorbency is a row of filled ‘drip’ or circle symbols to indicate the level of leakage they will contain.

In general, pads for ‘lighter’ bladder leakage look and feel like pantyliners. They come in boxes to keep them flat and compact.   This makes a good starting point if you are looking for something to keep you confident and safe against a small leak (up to 6 teaspoons = 30ml). These would work for or a few drips or spurts if you move awkwardly, or cough unexpectedly with a full bladder.  

If you suffer with more severe leakage, you will be worrying about getting wet clothes. Look at the pads in bags which will be more absorbent or disposable absorbent pants (see below).

A bad cough, hayfever, trying anything bouncy for a prolonged period could leak a small yogurt pot worth (= 100ml). Of if you have an irritable bladder (officially called overactive bladder) which can trigger a sudden urge and empty at the front door, or if you wait too long, you have the risk of potentially emptying most or all of your bladder (which could be 200ml – 400ml),

If you are getting wet when you do sport or play with your kids your priority should be to solve the bladder problem further.  Talk to your physio about organising a full assessment. 

TOP TIPS for using pads

  • Shape them – to create a gully (see video)
  • Put them a bit further forward in your knickers, as the bladder tube (urethra) is just below your pubic bone
  • Change them regularly to avoid irritating your skin
  • Wear knickers that hold them snug


If you need complete confidence that no matter which way you bend, stretch, move or lie you will have full protection in all directions these are better than a substantial pad that only protects the gusset.   

  • ideal for night time leakage
  • exercise classes with lots of matwork or changes of position
  • crazy play with the kids
  • a bladder that struggles to make it to the toilet first thing in the morning
  • long car journeys or travel when toilets and timing are so uncertain.

The modern absorbent waterproof disposable knicker is technically sophisticated.  Still a way to go on style (they are trying).  Unfortunately, thye need to be big to be absorbent and need a deep waistband to hold them snug & safe. Available in standard white, cream and black.  Some with dodgy flowers.

I don’t believe these could ever feel “normal” (as marketed). However, they do give mums freedom to move without worrying. Put a big pair of “PE” pants (aka Bridget Jones) over the top to make them a tad more “out of sight out of mind” (- and organise a physio appointment to solve this problem).

If you are often using disposable incontinence pads or pants definitely look at the next option, washable knickers.  You will be amazed to see that you can get the same absorbency in a much more “normal” looking knicker.  Worth the upfront costs and kinder to your skin as well as the environment.


We are so lucky to be in the era of textile research and design. I am delighted to see this being applied to continence underwear. 


  • good for the environment. 
  • great if you are usually fine but like to know you have back up. 
  • more discreet if you need a thicker pad. 
  • look much more like real knickers.
  • most are machine washable
  • available in a range of colours and styles
  • Natural products and airflow around your vulva, less irritation


  • once you are wet you need to change the whole knicker
  • some are not machine washable

Brands: washable incontinence knickers UK

Brand will hold same as… Laundry
ProTech Dry High Waist Briefs
(also called Maxi Pant)
30-60ml 2-3 tablespoons Up to 60 degrees
Speax. Hi-Waist, Hiphugger,
French Cut, Bikini
40ml 8 tsps Cold wash, tumble or line dry
Speax Thong 15ml 3 tsps Cold wash
Love Luna (Sainsburys),
Lady Leaks No VPL, Lady Leaks Maternity Knickers, Lady Leaks Midi Knickers
30ml 6 tsps cold machine wash, do not tumble
GiggleKnickers 30ml 6 tsps 40 degree, tumble or line dry
Hush Hush
Seamless Panty or Lace waist panty
100ml small yogurt pot  
Wearever Underwear
regular absrobancy
Maximum absorbancy
half a cup or a full bladder machine wash warm, tumble dry (cotton style only)
Pro-tech black knickers absorbent for incontinence

PROTECH DRY High Waist Brief (also called Maxi Pant)

made from sturdy cotton, 3 layer mesh-style gusset, surprisingly flat: an absorbant layer (40ml = 8 tsps), odour retention layer & wick away surface, smoothly sealed seams.

* use SUPPORTEDMUMS at checkout for a 15% discount

Speax washable incontinence pants


From the manufacturers of Thinx period pants. Five different styles: from Hip Hugger, through classic bikini to thong.  Varying prices depending on style £16 – £24 . 

The main knicker is a quality silky material (not cotton), gusset is subtle. Fun colours!

Speax incontinence pads are silky & colourful

NB: they  are  cold wash only (no bleach or fabric softener) with low tumble dry which you might miss in the instructions (and then be very cross about!).  Answers to other FAQs here:

Giggle Knickers cotton washable incontinence pants

Giggle Knickers

A fresh feeling, environmentally aware, small company with a quality range of machine washable cotton pants designed to replace a liner.

Brief or high waisted £12.99-£14.99

GK are zero rated for VAT as long as you are an individual and you don’t buy more than 9 at a time. Compostable mailing bags.

Love Luna (Sainsburys)

Good budget choice. Silky material 91% nylon, gusset is 100% polyester with cotton padding, quite a wide stiff gusset, so a little more ‘aware’ that you are wearing them, than more expensive brands.

3 styles: full knickers, no VPL workout knickers, maternity knickers

£12 per pair.

Wearever washable incontinence pants knickers


A ‘sturdier’ look but this range can cope with more leakage than the more fashion based ranges. Variety of styles, colours and absorbancies (regular or maximum).

pair shown here are silky panel at front with lace panel at back

available from iMedicare at

You are eligible for VAT relief on your order if you are an individual purchasing Wearever for the treatment of incontinence.

What will suit you best?

Probably a mixture of different things! Life is sweet with all it’s variety, messy moments, strategic plays and aspirational hopes. No one product will solve a typical situation or day. Be open minded, treat yourself. Mums matter.

And don’t forget – you can CURE this!

80% of women can improve or completely cure their incontinence through the simplest strategy of sticking to a 3 month programme of pelvic floor exercises. Best success comes from a 1:1 assessment of your situation and a bit of supervision by a specialist physiotherapist. You can self refer to an NHS physio or many private clinics all over the UK.

Look after yourself, share your troubles with a friend, encourage other women to seek help. #No More Miserable Mums

Please let us know which products you like best in the comments below or join our conversations @propelvic. Have you changed your life through the right knickers or exercises?

Content Disclaimer:

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of my blogposts, articles and my videos are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of if you are not a face to face client of mine. Professional and/or medical advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. Amanda Savage disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article, blog or video.

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