Sanitary towels are popular with many women for very light bladder leakage, as they can be a cost effective alternative to more expensive small disposable insert pads 1
Sanitary towels are also known as sanitary napkins or menstrual pads.
They come in a range of absorbencies for day-time and night-time use.
Sanitary towels for night time use are usually longer, thicker and more absorbent than daytime sanitary towels.
They are usually shaped and have sticky strips on the back or adhesive wings to hold them securely in place with close-fitting underwear.
Many women choose to use sanitary towels for bladder leakage as they find them to be a cheap and acceptable alternative to the more expensive products that are designed specifically for incontinence. However, their leakage performance is not as good as for small disposable insert pads 1
It is hard to say if a sanitary towel will work well for you without trying it, but if you have very light incontinence, and want to use a cheaper product, at least some of the time, then these pads could be suitable for you.
You may not find them suitable for everyday use but some women find that they work for them during certain times of the day, depending on their lifestyle and amount of leakage.
It can sometimes be difficult to keep a sanitary towel securely in place. Mesh or stretch pants can be fiddly to use. More robust stretch pants are available – you may find these hold the pad more securely in place.
Sanitary towels are relatively cheap so you can buy a pack to try them and see if they work for you.
Some manufacturers of sanitary products will send you free samples in the post for you to try - look out for advertisements in magazines and on the internet and you can ‘try before you buy’.
Washable sanitary towels are available. They have usually have poppers and wings to secure around the gusset area of underwear. There is no information about how they perform for bladder leakage. It is possible that they perform similarly to small washable pads although the poppers may hold them in place better.
Sanitary towel manufacturers generally indicate the absorbency of their products using droplet symbols. Only the most absorbent night time products are likely to be suitable for bladder leakage and then only for very light leakage.
Some women have found establishing the amount of urine they lose helpful in matching a pad to their needs. This can be done by weighing a pad before and after use and subtracting the lighter weight (before use) from the heavier weight (after use).
Click on Amount of leakage to find out how to do this.
Click on Pads for guidance about pads for bowel leakage.
Click on Faecal Devices for information about other products for bowel leakage.
Women generally find sanitary towels easy to manage - although the sticky strips on the back can be tricky to remove.
If you find it difficult to remove the sticky strip you might find it helpful to try pouch pants; these are pants with a pocket in the gusset into which a pad can be fitted.
If you need a helper to change your pads, you might need to find a product that suits you and is also easy for your helper to change.
If you can stand, even for short periods then sanitary towels can be quite easily put in place by a helper.
If you are lying in bed sanitary towels can be put in place by a helper if you can roll from side to side.
All pads are very hard to change in a sitting position unless you can lift your bottom off the chair and move from side to side lifting one buttock off the chair at a time. It might take some practice with you and your helper to get a system that works for you.
You will have to consider how often a sanitary towel would need to be changed; it will probably need to be changed more frequently than a small disposable insert pad therefore if your helper only visits a couple of times a day then this may not be enough.
Some people find that they are allergic to some of the materials that sanitary towels are made of and find that they have to stop using them.
Occasionally women also find that they can experience chaffing or rubbing from raised or elasticated parts of the sanitary towel. If they have adhesive wings, these can become stuck to the skin accidentally and can hurt when removed.
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