LIVING WITH INCONTINENCE
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As it’s not an official term, it’s hard to know exactly what people mean when referring to ‘adult nappies or diapers’. Products designed to manage bladder and bowel leaks in adults are, in fact, called incontinence products.
According to Oxford Languages, ‘continence’ is defined as the ability to control movements of the bowel and bladder. So it makes sense that if that control is incomplete or lost, that is incontinence.
The range of incontinence products available is enormous. From small, thin liners and shields designed to sit inside your regular underwear and manage just a few drips of urine to products that absorb a full bladder and contain bowel movements – and everything in between.
The concept of nappies is generally well understood. Worn by babies and toddlers who are yet to be toilet trained, nappies also absorb urine and contain bowel movements. Based on this, we assume that ‘adult nappies’ refers to incontinence products designed to manage complete incontinence.
Incontinent products are actually pretty sophisticated. Like nappies, they contain pulp, which is soft and fibrous, allowing liquid to be quickly drawn into the product. They also contain Super Absorbent Polymers, or SAP for short. These white, sand-like particles can absorb many times their own weight in liquid, swelling and transforming the tiny hard grains into a gel.
There are several advantages to this.
Products designed to manage complete incontinence also have soft, breathable material for comfort, close, body-fit shape and leg cuffs to contain faeces.
As mentioned, incontinence is everything from losing a few drops to a full bladder or bowel movement. Incontinence isn’t a condition as such, but a symptom of an underlying issue. For that reason, if you’re experiencing any leakage, it’s always worth discussing it with your doctor.
That said, there are many reasons why incontinence can occur. Some examples are:
While the term ‘adult diaper or nappy’ is descriptive and well understood, to someone who uses products to manage partial or complete incontinence, it can be offensive.
There is already plenty of unnecessary stigma surrounding incontinence. Some of that stems from the notion that as functioning adults, we should all have complete control of our bowel and bladder all the time. And that’s just not true. While the stigma contributes to under-reporting, it’s thought that one in three women and one in four men will have continence issues at some point in their life.
Nappies are associated with infants so using the term to describe adult products can be upsetting for the user. It potentially implies that the person is no longer a valid adult, that their agency is diminished, or that they have regressed to a child-like state.
Incontinence is a symptom of an underlying condition, in some cases a serious one. That means the person using incontinence products may be coming to terms with other health issues. ‘Adult nappies’ might be taken as a demeaning term and add to the person’s distress, so it’s best to avoid it and use the correct term -incontinence products.
Essity Australasia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.