Female Incontinence - Frequently Asked Questions

Have some basic questions about female incontinence or Depend® incontinence products for women? We've divided common questions from women like you into five categories. Each is filled with answers you need.

  1. Women's Incontinence Basics

    • Q What are the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)?

      Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain or cramping and changes in bowel function, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and fecal incontinence. If you have these symptoms and suspect you may have IBS, please speak to your doctor or medical provider.

    • Q What's irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and what causes it?


      Nearly 5 million Canadians suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with 120,000 Canadians developing IBS every year*. IBS is characterized by abdominal pain or cramping, and changes in bowel function, including bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.

      It's not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. If you have IBS, the muscles that line your intestines may cause stronger and longer-lasting contractions than normal, forcing food through your intestines quicker, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. Conversely, food passage slows and stools become hard and dry. Abnormalities in your nervous system or colon may also play a role, causing you to experience greater than normal discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas.

      For many people, IBS causes symptoms that are mild, which do not interfere with daily activities. For others, IBS may severely compromise their quality of life. Finding the right incontinence product can go a long way in boosting his or her confidence.

      *Canadian Digestive Health Foundation


    • Q What is urinary incontinence?


      Urinary incontinence (also known as bladder leakage) is the loss of bladder control. This means that you can't always control when you need to urinate. The good news is, it can be managed or even eliminated altogether. But in order for that to happen, it is crucial that we get all our facts about urinary incontinence right – clear any and all misconceptions.


    • Q How common is urinary incontinence?


      Millions of adults in the Canada have urinary incontinence or a milder form, sometimes called bladder weakness or overactive bladder (OAB), depending on the symptoms and causes. If you or a loved one is affected by urinary incontinence, you should know that you are not alone.

      It's most common in people over 50 years old. But it can also affect younger people, especially women who have given birth. Both men and women can have urinary incontinence.

      Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have this problem. If you hide your incontinence, you risk getting rashes, sores, skin infections and urinary tract infections. Also, you may find yourself avoiding friends and family because of fear and embarrassment.


    • Q What causes urinary incontinence?


      There are many causes of urinary incontinence. Some include weak bladder muscles, pregnancy, childbirth, hysterectomy, complications from surgery, stroke, or chronic diseases like diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson's disease. Other diseases that affect the bladder nerves or spinal cord could also cause urinary incontinence.


    • Q How does my bladder work?


      Your body stores urine in the bladder. During urination, muscles in the bladder tighten to move urine into the urethra - a tube below the bladder. At the same time, the muscles around the urethra relax and let the urine pass. Incontinence occurs if the urine leaves the bladder and urethra without warming.


    • Q What are the different kinds of incontinence with the symptoms and potential causes?

      Stress Incontinence
      • Loss of urine when you place pressure or 'stress' on your bladder
      • Leakage when you sneeze, cough, laugh, exercise, or lift heavy items
      • Causes may include: physical changes from childbirth, pregnancy, menopause, being overweight
      Urge Incontinence
      • Sudden, intense urge to urinate - often followed by involuntary loss of urine
      • Sudden or frequent emptying of bladder; getting up two or more times per night to urinate
      • Causes may include: bladder or urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, stroke, neurological diseases such as Parkinson's or Multiple Sclerosis
      Overflow Incontinence
      • Frequent or constant dribble of urine
      • Feeling your bladder is never empty; sometimes only a weak stream of urine
      • Causes may include: damaged bladder, blocked urethra, diabetes
      Functional Incontinence
      • Inability to reach bathroom in time
      • Physical or psychological impairment where you cannot reach the bathroom in time
      • Causes may include: mobility limitations, pain with movement, medications, arthritis

    • Q What health and lifestyle habits can help reduce the likelihood of incontinence?

      There are several simple things you can do to help maintain bladder and urinary health, including:
      • Urinate regularly
      • And don't delay having bowel movements.

      • Monitor your fluid intake
      • Drink at least six to seven 8 oz glasses of water a day to keep your bladder healthy. When you drink less water, your urine is more concentrated and may irritate the lining of the urethra and bladder.

      • Pay attention to your diet
      • Lot of things-including caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits) and drinks, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, hot spices and carbonated drinks-can irritate your bladder. Take time to learn what foods and drinks trigger your leakage and then remove them from your diet.

      • Consider the excess weight factor
      • A five to 10% weight loss can help relieve the added pressure excess weight puts on your bladder and surrounding muscles and aid in controlling your incontinence.

      • Practice pelvic floor muscles exercises
      • Also known as Kegels, to strengthen the muscles that help control urination.


    • Q What's bowel incontinence and what causes it?


      Bowel incontinence is the inability to control your bowel movements, causing stool (feces) to leak unexpectedly from your rectum. Also called fecal incontinence, bowel incontinence ranges from an occasional leakage of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.

      Both men and women suffer from this problem, although it's more common in women because of the injury to the anal muscles or nerves that can occur during childbirth. It becomes more common with advancing age as the muscles that control bowel movements (anal sphincter muscles) weaken.


    • Q Can I use feminine care pads for bladder leakage?


      No, we don't recommend it. Feminine care pads aren't designed to lock in urine or protect you in the same way as modern incontinence products like Depend®. Depend® Bladder Leakage Protection Underwear for Women are specifically designed to fit a woman’s body and protect you where and when you need it most. They're made of super-absorbent polymers (SAP) so they can absorb far more fluid than any average feminine care pad, offering you better protection against leaks and odours


  2. Living & Managing Incontinence in Women

    • Q How can I prevent and manage accidents?


      A weakened or overactive bladder doesn't have to keep you from living your life. There are steps you can take to prevent accidents or to manage them discreetly when they do happen.

      • Make simple changes
      • Keep the path to the bathroom clear and well lit at night if need be.
        Wear easy-to-open clothes.
        Empty your bladder before bed, a big meeting or a trip.

      • Use the right incontinent product
      • DEPEND® offers many styles and products designed to fit your needs and lifestyle. We have a comprehensive range of styles, colours, size and absorbency levels. To learn more about our custom range of women’s products and see which one best suits your needs, visit our product page.

      • Minimize odours
      • When you have an accident, odour may be one of your first concerns. Through you can't prevent it completely, you can curb it. First, stay hydrated-without going overboard. The more concentrated your urine is, the stronger it smells. Next, consider taking urine-deodorizing tablets, such as vitamin C, or supplements made for this purpose. You can also help reduce urine odour by drinking apple, pear, cherry or other non-citrus juices.

      • Stay sensibly hydrated
      • Drink at least six to seven 8 oz glasses of water a day to keep your bladder healthy. When you drink less water, your urine is more concentrated and may irritate the lining of the urethra and bladder.

      • Pay attention to your diet
      • Lot of things-including caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits) and drinks, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, hot spices and carbonated drinks-can irritate your bladder. Take time to learn what foods and drinks trigger your leakage and then remove them from your diet.

      • Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles
      • Learning where your pelvic floor muscles are and how to isolate them can help you make the most of pelvic floor exercises called Kegels. You can do Kegels anywhere, without anyone noticing. With a little practice, Kegels can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles-and that can help reduce feelings of urgency.


    • Q How do I get a good night's sleep?


      Preparation is everything. Take these steps to prevent accidents from happening:

      • Limit your fluid intake before bedtime
      • Avoid bladder-irritating foods and beverages
      • This includes caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits) and drinks, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, hot spices and carbonated drinks.

      • Double void before bed
      • In other words, urinate twice right before bed.

      • Do pelvic floor muscle exercises (Kegels)
      • Use the right incontinence products that are designed specifically for night time use
      • Like Depend® Night Defense® Underwear - Its close-to-body fit offers a wider, more absorbent core* for fast absorption so you can enjoy a secure, worry-free sleep every night.

        *vs. Depend® Fit-Flex Underwear for women


    • Q How do I talk to my loved ones about incontinence?


      First, figure out a good time and place to talk. Look for a quiet, comfortable environment where you'll have privacy-and be sure to give yourselves enough time. Think about what you're going to say in advance. You'll want to explain the nature of your condition, why it has happened, how it affects you, and what treatment you're trying.

      Plan to give your loved ones a chance to ask questions. Experts say people with incontinence often overestimate how much the news will embarrass or distress their loved ones. And by trusting them enough to tell them, you could make your relationship much stronger than before.


    • Q How do I manage incontinence at work?

      • Use the right incontinence product
      • Modern incontinence solutions, like DEPEND® products, use super-absorbent polymers (SAP) that lock in urine, odour and hold a fair bit of fluid so they're more protective. Depend® offers many styles and products in a comprehensive range of colours, size and absorbency levels designed specifically to fit your needs and lifestyle. Explore our custom range of women’s products and see which one best suits your needs.

      • Avoid the caffeine or water
      • The caffeine in coffee makes it diuretic, which increases your need to go.

      • Wear dark-colored business attire
      • Not only is it timeless-looking but it also hides a multitude of problems, including little stains.

      • Practice pelvic floor exercises (Kegels)-even in meetings
      • Kegel exercises are a method of managing leakage from stress incontinence. To do Kegels, contract the muscles that you would use to stop the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for three seconds and then relax. Do this eight to 10 times, at least three times a week.


    • Q How do I do Kegels (pelvic floor muscle exercises)? And do they help?


      Kegel exercises help tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Locate the pelvic muscles by pretending to stop the flow of urine. Squeeze and hold these muscles for three seconds, then relax for a count of three. Your goal is to try to do 10 tightening/relaxing exercises for a set. Rest and then do two more sets (30 exercises total) each day. Your doctor can give you more exact directions.

      Kegel exercises work the muscles that you use to stop urinating. Making these muscles stronger helps you hold urine in your bladder longer.

      Yes, exercises often help, particularly for persons with the stress type of bladder problem. You should consult with your doctor about the type of bladder weakness you have, and which exercises are best for you.


    • Q How long before Kegel exercises begin to help?


      Depending on the type of bladder weakness you have, you may begin to feel the benefit of exercises after just a few weeks, and after eight to 12 months there is a good chance you'll have reduced symptoms or even be symptom-free. Even if you're not symptom-free, exercises may improve your situation and, with the right products to help you, you can regain your confidence. The sooner you act, the better. Most people wait so long that it takes the body some time to get back to earlier routines. Please consult your doctor about your particular situation.


    • Q How do I control odour?


      The best way to control odours is a combination of good hygiene, overall body cleanliness, staying properly hydrated, and using fresh, clean disposable protective undergarments designed specifically to manage bladder leakage. Always dispose of products in an airtight container. When traveling or sharing a house with others, dispose of each incontinence garment in a plastic bag with a zip-style seal. Also consider taking urine-deodorizing tablets, such as vitamin C, or supplements made for this purpose. You can also help reduce urine odour by drinking apple, pear, cherry or other non-citrus juices. Finally, because sometimes people are not aware that an odour is present, find someone you trust to tell you honestly if there is any odour anywhere.


    • Q I have a pretty active life. Do you have any tips for changing on the go?


      Yes. Here are some simple things you can do to always make sure you're ready, no matter where you are.

      • Keep a spare change in your purse- house it in a stylish make-up bag for seamless discretion
      • Keep zipper-style plastic bags on hand for disposal
      • Get the darker blue kind to mask what's inside if you need to toss it out in public. You'll be able to find these bags, or special deodorized disposal bags, in most stores or online.

      • Keep an "emergency" stash in your glove box
      • Don't forget to replenish your supply.

      • Keep a gym bag full of essentials in your trunk
      • Set a schedule for regular changes
      • Be sure to carry a spare
      • In either a waist pack, sports bags, travel bag or backpack when you're not carrying a purse

      • Locate bathrooms ahead of time-especially in places you visit frequently
      • Planning ahead makes all the difference.


  3. Women's Incontinence Products FAQs

    • Q Are DEPEND® Boost Inserts and Depend® Belted Shields still available?


      DEPEND® no longer offers Boost Inserts or Belted Shields. Instead, we recommend you try Depend® Underwear for Women. With a snug fit at the waist and outstanding protection where you need it most, they offer a practical solution that is both comfortable and reliable.

      If you're unsure which product is right for you, try our Chat Online feature or call 1-877-413-3736 to speak to one of our representative who can assist you to choose the right product.


    • Q Which DEPEND® products should I use for IBS?


      For mild IBS Depend® FIT-FLEX® Underwear or any Silhouette® Briefs with maximum absorbency will offer good balance of protection and comfort in a pull-on style, just like regular underwear. For considerable and higher amount of leakage, Depend® Protection with Tabs offers maximum absorbency with side barriers to protect against leakage and four refastenable tabs for discreet, easy removal.


    • Q Do you have specific products for Men and Women, or are they unisex?


      We make both kinds of DEPEND® products. Since men and women have very different needs and anatomies, most of our products are designed specifically for each gender to cater to their distinct needs. However, we do also offer a few choice unisex products for use by Caregivers and in instances of chronic, heavy incontinence (both urinary and fecal). To learn more about our custom range of products and see which one best suits your needs or that out your loved one, visit our product page


    • Q Which product is most absorbent?


      A For our highest level of protection, choose Depend® products labeled Maximum Absorbency for daytime use and Depend® Night Defense® Underwear for night time use. These are our most absorbent products


    • Q Which Ingredients are DEPEND® Brand products made of?


      DEPEND® underwear products have cotton-like outer covers that look and feel like regular underwear. Inside, there's a thin, ultra-absorbent pad made of super-absorbent polymers (SAP) that quickly draws wetness in and away from the skin, converting it into gel thereby locking in leaks and odour. All are free of natural rubber latex and contain no lotions or fragrances.


    • Q How do you dispose of DEPEND® products?


      DEPEND® products were designed to be used once and then discarded in a trash bag or other waste container. Please do not flush. There are lots of ways you can discreetly dispose these products while you're on the go. Click here for tips.


    • Q Do you make an absorbent product for the pool?


      No, unfortunately, we do not make any absorbent products meant for the pool right now.


    • Q How often should I change my DEPEND® product?


      That depends on you and the extent of your condition. However, DEPEND® products use more super absorbent polymers (SAP) to ensure they can withstand multiple wettings of varying amounts.


    • Q Are DEPEND® products washable?


      No. DEPEND® products are designed for single use only.


    • Q What product do you recommend for bowel incontinence?


      We recommend DEPEND® Adjustable Underwear. It offers maximum absorbency, worry-free odour control and is designed to be changed two ways. Step in and out of it like regular underwear or open the side perforations for easy changing without having to remove pants and shoes. Four pre-fastened tabs help provide a snug, custom fit.


    • Q Can I get samples of DEPEND® products?


      Yes. You can order a free trial kit of assorted DEPEND® products online so you can assess which option works best for you and your needs. Click here to learn more about our FREE Trial Kit or call 1-866-641-7314 to speak to a helpful Depend® Brand representative.


    • Q Where can I find more information on DEPEND® products?


      There are several ways you learn more about DEPEND® products and ensure you stay "in the loop" on our latest products. These include:

      • Explore our website, Depend.com, just like you're doing now


      • Join the conversation in the DEPEND® Community Boards

        Comment on articles and share stories and advice with people just like you in these safe and monitored online forums.



  4. Incontinence Support FAQs

    • Q Where can I learn more about incontinence?


      No doubt knowledge is power, especially when it comes to managing incontinence. The more you know, the more you live your life and not your condition. The good news is, there are lots of reputable online sources and organizations where you can find trustworthy and timely information. These include:

      • WebMD.com

        The leading online source for trustworthy and timely health and medical news and information.

      • MayoClinic.com

        The online site for the Mayo Clinic, one of the most highly respected medical practices in the world.

      • DEPEND® Connections

        Our free monthly e-newsletter containing articles and advice for maintaining your lifestyle, latest products and FAQs.



  5. Incontinence & Menopause FAQs

    • Q How does menopause affect bladder control?


      During and after the process of menopause, levels of the female hormone estrogen drop significantly. Besides controlling your monthly periods and body changes during pregnancy, estrogen helps keep the bladder and urethra healthy. Lack of estrogen may cause the pelvic muscles responsible for bladder control to weaken, resulting in urinary incontinence.


    • Q What kind of bladder control problems can develop after menopause?


      Some of the bladder control problems that may develop because of menopause include:

      • Stress incontinence
      • Pressure from coughing, sneezing or lifting can push urine through the pelvic muscles weakened from the dropping levels of the female hormone estrogen. This kind of leakage is called stress incontinence. It's one of the most common kinds of bladder control problems in women.

      • Urge incontinence
      • Urge incontinence is another common bladder control problem. With this condition, the bladder muscles squeeze at the wrong time-or all the time-and cause leaks.

      • Nocturia
      • The need to get out of bed to urinate several times a night.