Incontinence Solutions: A Candid Conversation

Male incontinence Do you find yourself turning down social gatherings, walks, workouts, or travel plans because you need to stay close to the bathroom? Don’t blush! Urinary incontinence (UI), loss of bladder control, is much more common than you may have thought.

As a post-menopausal woman, my bladder control just isn’t what it used to be. I also admit that when I first started experiencing little “leaks” I was devastated. What was going on? Many years ago, during the last trimester of pregnancy, I had experienced similar “accidents” when I coughed or sneezed, but at my current stage in life, I found such occurrences worrisome.

Did I have a serious health problem? The darker side of my imagination had a heyday, so after several sleep-deprived nights I swallowed my pride, got up my courage, and talked to my doctor. Guess what? It turned out to be nothing that a few exercises and the occasional undergarment protection couldn’t take care of.

Knowing my doctor had ruled out serious health issues, I’ve since researched UI online and learned that anyone can suffer from it and given enough time, most everyone will, because it is far more common with age, though women are twice as likely as men to suffer from incontinence.

If you have an accident when you sneeze, laugh, or lift a heavy object, this is called stress incontinence. If it feels as if your bladder is full and you have to run to the bathroom frequently but upon arrival you can’t deliver, this is called an overactive bladder. UI can range from a small amount of leakage to an entire emptying of the bladder.

Though it’s a topic most folks feel squeamish talking about with anyone, including their doctor and spouses, solutions abound in today’s world. Walk into any pharmacy or grocery store and you’ll find entire aisles stocked full of bulky protective pads and adult diapers. But I found the matter of standing in public while trying to decide which brand, size, and absorbency best suited my needs a bit… well… for lack of a better word — embarrassing. And standing in the checkout line, I found myself attempting to hide my selection under an assortment of other purchases.

Because I work at The Vermont Country Store, I knew we offered incontinence briefs in our catalog and online; but because I didn’t need them, I had never read about them. Now that the “tide had turned,” so had my attitude. We offer several types that are far more comfortable and discreet than the baby diaper knock-offs being sold elsewhere. They actually look and feel like regular underwear! You can machine wash and dry them, so they pay for themselves pretty darn fast. Meanwhile, by not using disposables, you’re helping keep the environment cleaner. Plus, you don’t have to feel self-conscious standing in the checkout line; they’ll arrive at your doorstep in a brown box, and no one will ever know.

After test-driving each of them for an entire day, here’s my take on the women’s panties, underwear, briefs and pads.

Absorbent, Lace-Trimmed Protective Panties 

Lace Trim Incontinence Briefs
Women’s Lace Trimmed Protective Panties

For my particular UI problem, this panty was my personal favorite. I found this full-cut, true-to-size panty very comfortable, in fact, more so than wearing underwear with a sanitary napkin. They offer good moderate protection and have pretty lace side panels. The body is lightweight, semi-sheer nylon that’s silky smooth to the touch and not at all bulky. The elastic waist rises to just below the belly button. The absorbent cotton/polyester pad measures about 11” front to back and is designed to hold up to 6 ounces of fluid, plus it’s woven with anti-microbial fibers to help eliminate odors. Though the care instructions state machine wash and dry, I line dry all my panties. They washed up nicely and dried quickly.

After absorbency and comfort, my big concern was if someone could tell I was wearing protective panties. No, I did not ask anyone. I did what most women would do – I looked in the mirror. No show! This reminded me of the 1960s Clairol commercials where folks wondered, “Does she, or doesn’t she?” But instead of referring to whether I color my hair, my co-workers might wonder if I’m wearing protective briefs! As I get older, I appreciate more and more that I inherited my father’s wonderful sense of humor.

Super-Absorbent Protective Underwear

super absorbent incontinence panties
Women’s Super Absorbent Protective Underwear

If you prefer a slightly more substantial feel to your panties, you’ll like these. The body and pad are cotton/polyester enhanced with Hydrex®, which absorbs more than disposable fabrics (like that found in disposable sanitary pads and diapers) and also dries faster. The full-coverage fit was true to size, rising to the belly button, and the liner was a bit shy of 11” front to back. I was pleased with the no-bulk fit of this underwear; it provided protection that was invisible to the world. An additional benefit: they can be machine washed and dried hundreds of times before their absorbency is affected, making them an excellent value when compared to disposables. This underwear is designed to hold up to 4 ounces. (They are also available as a men’s brief with fly front.)

Ultra-Absorbent Incontinence Brief

Women's Ultra Absorbent Incontinence Briefs
Women’s Ultra Absorbent Briefs

This ultra-absorbent brief will keep you dry even during a long trip, yet it doesn’t feel bulky or appear obvious. The cotton/polyester body of the women’s version has a pretty woven picot pattern on the outside, a feminine touch I appreciated. Thanks to a unique front and back panel, the flattering fit was true to size; and although not advertised as such, I felt as if the front panel offered a hint of tummy support. At first glance I thought the panels’ seams would be irritating, but the fabric is brushed on the inside so it’s soft and fleece-like next to your skin. The absorbent liner is a full 12” long, 3” wide at bottom-center, contouring to 5” wide at front and back. I tossed this brief in the washer, hung them on the line until nearly dry, and then fluffed it for 5 minutes in the dryer to be sure the liner was totally dry.

Washable Absorbent Pads

Contoured to fit comfortably in most women’s panties, these convenient pads are sold as a set of three (so you can keep an extra in your handbag or tucked in your office desk). Though advertised as offering light absorbency, I found the fabric density comparable to wearing a medium-flow sanitary napkin. The soft absorbent side has a center channel that helps disperse fluid throughout the pad. A nicely-stitched binding joins the top to the moisture-resistant barrier at the underside. These one-size-fits-most pads are about 10” long, 3” wide at center, and simply machine wash and dry.

In closing…

stay active
Stay active, despite urinary incontinence

A recent bout of the flu turned into a nasty sinus infection with much sneezing, coughing, and yes, I was quite glad that I was wearing my Absorbent, Lace-Trimmed Protective Panties. That said, though you should confide in a doctor or health care provider to determine the cause of your incontinence, know that The Vermont Country Store offers effective solutions to help you discreetly cope with the symptoms. You can maintain your active lifestyle while wearing the clothing you love – and no one will ever know.