Incontinence Pull Ups: Pros, Cons and Alternatives


Incontinence pull ups will be a familiar product to most of us; they’re usually in the same aisle as feminine hygiene products at the drugstore. 

But odds are most of us associate these products with “women of a certain age” and don’t really think about how they might pertain to us, why they might be necessary or if there are better alternatives.

Until - that is - you experience urinary incontinence. This is something that can affect women (and men) of any age and for many different reasons. Let’s take some time to better understand urinary incontinence.

What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Incontinence is not a “male” or “female” problem. But something that can impact any person at any time of their lives and for many different reasons. Indeed according to the Urology Care Foundation, “a quarter to a third of men and women in the U.S. suffer from urinary incontinence.”

Urinary incontinence affects women more for two main reasons:

  1. Women have a shorter urethra
  2. Those who have been through childbirth may have weakened muscle support in the bladder and urethra

The 5 Major Types of Female Urinary Incontinence

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Type of Incontinence

How / When it Manifests

Some Possible Causes

Treatment May Include

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is urine loss during physical exertion, whether it be exercise or more physical reactions like coughing, sneezing, laughing etc.

  • Childbirth
  • Trauma from surgery (e.g. hysterectomy)
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 
  • Menopause
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Urge Incontinence

An impossible-to-ignore urge to urinate, even if you just went or felt fine just minutes before.

  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Trauma to the bladder and urethra from surgery
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Mixed Incontinence

A combination of stress and urge incontinence.

  • The same causes as stress and urge incontinence
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication
  • Bladder botox injections

Overflow Incontinence

If the flow of urine “dribbles” or is unsteady, you may have overflow incontinence. The inability to completely empty your bladder can lead it to overflow and cause unexpected urine leaks.

  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Underactive bladder
  • Blockages in the urinary tract
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Surgery to remove blockages
  • Use of catheter

Functional Incontinence

This is when you experience urine loss, but the cause is not associated with any problems with the urinary system.

  • Neurological or psychological problems or conditions
  • Physical impairments like spinal cord injuries
  • Nursing assistance
  • Changing physical settings
  • Medications and therapies to address underlying medical condition

Risk Factors for Incontinence

30-60% of women over the age of 40 experience urinary incontinence (Ian Milsom, Gothenburg Continence Research Center) so if you are among them, you shouldn’t blame yourself. Being a woman does put you at greater risk. Your age puts you at greater likelihood.

In addition to these factors, urinary incontinence risk factors include:

  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Other diseases (e.g. diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s Disease)
  • Having been through pregnancy and childbirth
  • Having undergone certain pelvic surgeries (e.g. hysterectomy)
  • Dementia 

Adult Pull Ups and Incontinence

An astounding 50% of people who experience incontinence do not seek medical advice. It is important to talk to your doctor if you experience incontinence as they’ll want to diagnose the kind of incontinence you have, as well as rule out more serious concerns.

While you work with your healthcare provider to understand what kind of incontinence you have and your treatment options, it’s likely you’ll want some lifestyle products to help manage the immediate reality of dealing with urine leaks. This is when many people turn to pull up diapers. Adult pull up diapers are among the most popular incontinence products.

Popular brands of adult pull ups include Tena, Depend and Prevail, though there are many other options on the market. These products come in styles for both men and women. They are disposable, but increasingly designed to look and feel like other full-body underwear. 

In general, these products offer excellent protection from bladder leaks. However, there are pros and cons of every product...

Pros and Cons of Pull Ups

Pull up diapers can offer excellent protection from light bladder leaks, but they might not be the right product for every woman. Let’s look closer at the pros and cons:

Pros of Pull Up Diapers

  • Generally these products offer excellent protection.
  • They seal away moisture, preventing irritation and odour.
  • Comes in a variety of absorbency levels.

Cons of Pull Up Diapers

  • Pulls ups are disposable products, which creates a lot of waste and ongoing expense for the wearer.
  • Although designs have come a long way, they are still bulkier than regular underwear.
  • May feel “diaper like” on the body, which can lead to self-consciousness about wearing certain clothing.
  • May make a ‘rustling’ sound when you wear them.
  • Plastic pieces can be uncomfortable on the skin or cause irritation.
  • They are not stylish.

Alternatives to Pull Ups

If you find yourself wishing that there was a more “underwear-like” alternative to pull-ups, you’re in luck. Super absorbent Knix Leakproof Underwear can hold up to 8 tsp of liquid (whether that’s sweat, blood or urine). 

The best part: These can be washed like regular underwear and reworn. This means less expense over time buying costly disposable products. Plus, you’ll create less waste and environmental damage.

Products like these can be a game changer for those experiencing female urinary incontinence, allowing them to remain active and social while exploring treatment options.

It’s still important to talk to your doctor about your experience. They’ll likely recommend a treatment plan that includes pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle changes and other medical treatments (even surgery). 

6 More Things You Can Do to Help Urinary Incontinence

1. Reduce Your Risk Factors

Urinary incontinence affects a great number of women, at every age, life stage and with all kinds of medical history. A lot of the risk factors (e.g. past pregnancy and childbirth trauma, or surgical history) are not things you can impact.

However, some of the risk factors can be addressed with lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Quitting smoking

2. Adjust Your Diet and Beverage Intake

The following foods and beverages can irritate the bladder, causing involuntary urine leakage. 

  • Sweeteners, including corn syrup, honey and artificial sweeteners
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes

Beverages to avoid include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages

If you’re not ready to abstain completely from these ingredients, be more mindful when and where you consume them, especially closer to bedtime.

3. Try Pelvic Floor Muscle Training to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can be done any time, either sitting or lying down.You can even do them when you are eating, sitting at your desk, or when you are resting.

4. Take Preventative Measures Against Urinary Tract Infections

Incontinence is one symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI). Another symptom is a stinging or burning sensation when you pee and a decreased or irregular flow of urine. If you experience this, you should visit your doctor. UTIs are treated with antibiotics for 3 to 7 days. 

Ways to prevent UTIs include:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Urinate before and after having sex
  • Wipe from front to back after you pee
  • Wear breathable, natural underwear and clothing, changing your underwear daily

5. Eat Plenty of Fibre to Avoid Constipation

Straining on the toilet can weaken (or further weaken) your pelvic floor muscles. So it’s best to make sure your diet is rich in fibre to avoid constipation. Exercise (even the gentlest of walks done regularly) can also help prevent constipation.

6. Try Bladder Training and/or Double Voiding

Bladder training involves taking bathroom breaks at regularly timed intervals. By ensuring your bladder is emptied frequently, you minimize the chances of leakages. Over time, the duration of time between breaks can be increased. 

You can also try double voiding: Before bedtime, go to the bathroom and then wait 10 minutes (perhaps brush your teeth etc. in the interim) and then pee again. Using the bathroom several times before bed will help ensure your bladder is empty.