You’ve always lived an active lifestyle, but lately, you’ve been noticing an embarrassing trend. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of intense exercise, you start to… leak. You run quickly to the bathroom to clean yourself up, but you often end up cutting your workouts short so you can go home and change.
Being at the gym, on the court, or out on a run when the leaks (also known as incontinence) kicks in can be inconvenient and frustrating—and it’s a problem that affects over 33 million people in the U.S. alone. But the occasional leakage doesn’t have to disrupt your workout routine—as long as you come prepared.
Today, there are a variety of products available to keep you dry and focused on your reps, heart rate, mile time, or game score. Let’s compare some of the most popular incontinence products. There are lots of choices so there’s almost certainly one that’s perfect for you.
Disposable Incontinence Pads
Many women rely on disposable bladder leak pads as their go-to incontinence product when exercising. They’re affordable, easy to wear, and convenient.
Best for: Light to medium coverage
- Come in a variety of different thicknesses and absorbency levels
- Can we worn for longer than reusable incontinence products
- Provide more freedom of movement than disposable underwear
- Relatively affordable
- Easy to dispose of
- Can shift or leak during high-intensity activity
- Not good for heavy coverage
- Can cause skin irritation or infection for some women after prolonged use (but are still a better option than using regular menstrual products)
Reusable Incontinence Pads
Reusable incontinence pads are a great option for the eco-minded workout warrior who wants to make good choices for her body and for the environment.
Best for: Light to medium coverage
- Most affordable option over time
- Absorbs odors efficiently
- Fewer potential irritants for those with sensitive ski
- Used pads have to be hand-laundered or machine washed separately
- Some materials require bleach or strong detergent to clean odors
- Have to be changed immediately when soiled because they don’t lock in fluid as effectively as disposables
- More likely to shift or leak during high-intensity activity than disposable pads
- Not available in as many length or absorbency options as disposable incontinence products
Disposable Incontinence Underwear
When you’re looking for additional protection—say you’re training for a half marathon, biking in the country for the afternoon, or heading out for a 10-mile hike—disposable incontinence underwear is a great product option to help you stay dry all day.
Best for: Heavy leakage or prolonged activity
- Complete coverage against multiple or higher-volume leaks
- Quality products absorb odors well
- Convenient to pack and wear
- Easy disposal when you get home
- Less comfortable than reusable underwear
- Movement is more limited than if you’re wearing a pad
- Shows through tight-fitting athletic wear
- Leakage can still happen, especially if you’re between sizes
- More expensive than disposable pads or reusable incontinence products
Reusable Incontinence Underwear
If you want some extra protection against your overactive bladder, but don’t want to compromise on style or comfort, reusable incontinence underwear are a great option. They’re also a solid alternative for women with diabetes, sensitive skin, or allergies that benefit from more breathable material.
Best for: Light to moderate coverage
- Comfortable to wear
- Allows for a broad range of movement
- Comes in a variety of fabrics
- No slipping or bunching like a pad
- Less absorbent than disposable incontinence underwear
- Not many size options available from most makers
- Most expensive option
- Used underwear must be hand-laundered or machine washed separately
- Depending on the materials used, bleach or strong detergent must be used to remove odors
If you have stress incontinence—that is, if you leak when you laugh, sneeze, run, or exercise strenuously—bladder supports can be a good short-term solution while you’re exercising. Bladder supports are a tampon-like product inserted into the vagina. They work by lifting and supporting your urethra and bladder, preventing leaks from happening.
Best for: Short-term use during strenuous physical activity
- Easy insertion and disposal (just like a tampon!)
- Relatively comfortable to wear
- Stops leaks before they happen
- More expensive than disposable pads and underwear
- Can be more challenging to insert if you have arthritis or limited dexterity
If you’re living with pelvic prolapse, it’s very important to give your bladder some extra support when you run or exercise. A pessary is a simple, effective device you insert into your vagina to hold up out of your bladder.
Best for: Women with prolapsed bladders
- Provides full bladder support
- Works all day
- Need to get one through a doctor
- Can be uncomfortable to wear, especially during high-impact exercise
- As with bladder supports, leakage may still occur when you wear it
Next Steps To Compare Incontinence Products
An overactive bladder shouldn’t get in the way of an active lifestyle. There are several different options for incontinence products to protect yourself from leaks. Here’s what to do next:
- Experiment and see which incontinence products work best for you. Different kinds of products may work better for high intensity runs versus low intensity exercise, or for short versus long activities.
- When you find a product you like, consider buying a subscription so you always have your favorites on-hand for a trip to the gym or the outdoors.
- If your overactive bladder is getting worse or affecting your day-to-day routine, talk to your doctor about treatment options that can help support an active lifestyle.
Ready to tell your bladder who’s boss? Get pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered straight to your door from Lily Bird.