urine absorbent products for incontinence

a diaper with tabs

The body-worn absorbent products for incontinence contain urine and faeces. These include four types: Diapers, inserts, Pull-ups, and pouches. This post describes these products.

Diapers or briefs (pull-ups)?

First of all, a word of caution: the word, “diaper” may carry a certain degree of stigma for an adult because it is a baby’s thing; it seems that the adults prefer the word, “brief” to “diaper”. However, even the government of Canada’s website uses the term “adult diapers”.


The term “inserts” refers to a type of absorbent product that is placed inside the adult diaper. You can find more about these absorbent products in another post.

Who wears incontinent absorbent briefs?

Adult briefs contain “moderate to heavy” amounts of urine. This is what the book says. But determining the “moderate-heavy” incontinence is challenging. Experts agree that those who pass more than 100 ml of urine within 24 hours are having “moderate-heavy incontinence”. And, those who pass less than 100ml are experiencing a “light” degree of incontinence.

How do you decide that?

I will deal with that problem later. You need to be able to estimate the leaking volume because this is one of the criteria manufacturers adhere to when producing incontinence products.

First, I will describe the main parts of a diaper or a brief.

Anatomy of adult absorbent diapers and briefs

A standard absorbent diaper consists of three layers: the inner layer, the middle pad, and the outer layer. The following is the basic structure of adult incontinent absorbent products.

Structure of an absorbent product
Three layers of an absorbent diaper

The inner layer (top sheet) – the inner layer

The inner layer lies in direct contact with the user’s skin; the fabric here is a non-woven material to enable urine and other body fluids to permeate into the middle absorbent pad.

The middle absorbent pad – the middle layer

The absorbent pad – the most important section – consists of super absorbent polymer – of course, a synthetic type – which can absorb water as much as 20 times more than its weight. Some products contain fluff pulp too.

The outer layer (back sheet) – the outer layer

Unlike the inner layer, this one is made of woven fabric designed not to allow trapped body fluids seeping into clothes or bed linen.

Elasticated wraps and self-adhesive tabs

Since a diaper is an adult version of a nappy, it holds itself with its elasticated wraps around the thighs and self-adhesive resealable tabs around the waist.

What are the adult diapers and briefs?

Adult urine absorbent types exist in two forms: Pull-ups and diapers with tabs (tape-attachment diapers). Most of these products are disposable; few varieties exist as reusable too.

Briefs (Pull-ups)

Briefs are also called “pull-ups” which are like shorts – you can call them a type of underwear too – into which absorbent materials are built. Those are ideal for those who are not bed-bound it does not hinder walking and other body movements. However, sometimes those who cannot sit or stand, wear this type too.

A pull-up

We can find pull-ups in various sizes: small or medium, large or extra-large, and XXX large. The government of Canada’s website publishes item numbers and prices per size for provinces and territories.

Diaper with tabs

A diaper

This type is ideal for bed-bound clients. It also comes in different sizes like pull-ups. The advantage of this type is that we can adjust the tab to make it fit properly. Companies sold these under the term “adult briefs (tape-on)”. According to the Cochrane research database, this type is the most cost-effective one for men with moderate-heavy urine incontinence.

Further reading

Author: Ed Jerard

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