Why Absorbency and Size Matters When Choosing Incontinence Underwear

An older man and woman embracing and smiling

If you live with urinary incontinence, it’s important to know what products are available to help you manage leaks and stay fresh and dry throughout the day. However, despite the variety of options available today, it can be overwhelming to choose which products are best for you.

When it comes to big-name brands and the options available in most superstores, there seems to be very little accessible guidance on how to choose products, especially when choosing protective underwear. Recent studies show that 80% of those who use incontinence underwear to manage leaks are using the wrong products. The lack of guidance available also results in people trying an average of seven or more products before finding one that works for them.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to urinary incontinence products. What’s best for you may not be the best for another person, so it’s important to know what factors to consider when choosing protective underwear. Here at Because Market, we are passionate about designing products that fit seamlessly into your life. We know there is no one-size-fits-all, so we tailor products to fit you. This guide breaks down the importance of absorbency and size and how these factor into your protective underwear decision.

Why Absorbency Matters

Knowing what absorbency you need is vital when choosing incontinence underwear. You need the correct level of absorbency in order to protect you from leaks, help you stay dry, and keep you comfortable and confident all day long.

Depending on what kind of urinary incontinence you have and how much liquid you tend to void at a time, the level of absorbency may vary. For instance, if you avoid smaller amounts of urine at a time, you may need moderate protection underwear that can hold one cup of liquid at a time. If you tend to void larger amounts of urine, you will likely need a higher level of absorbency that can hold four cups of liquid at a time.

Why Size Matters

Improperly fitting incontinence underwear can result in problems. For instance, if the underwear is too small, it may cause uncomfortable chafing or rubbing on the skin. If this chafing is severe, urine exposure can cause the area to become irritated and this can lead to incontinence-associated skin issues. In addition to finding proper skincare for the skin, it’s vital to choose a size that fits just snug enough—without causing discomfort or chafing.

In addition, if your protective underwear is too large, it may have gaps in the leg area and lead to leaks. Even if you choose a higher absorbency, your underwear may still leak if it doesn’t fit correctly.

How to Choose Which Incontinence Product is Right for You 

When navigating different absorbency and size options for protective underwear, here are some guidelines to help you choose the best option for you.

Absorbency and Different Types of UI

Urinary incontinence comes in different forms. Some types of UI are caused by weakened bladder muscles. Other types are caused by a miscommunication between the bladder signals and the brain. Still, others are caused by the inability to make it to the restroom in time to empty the bladder. Depending on what form of urinary incontinence you have, your leaks may look different than others.

Stress Incontinence

Stress Incontinence occurs when “stress” or pressure is put on the bladder muscles from movements that cause leaks. These movements can include jumping, sneezing, laughing, or other physical movements that push on the pelvic floor muscles, causing them to release. While it can sometimes lead to larger voids of urine and complete emptying of the bladder, this type of UI is typically characterized by smaller voids of urine.

If you have this kind of UI, you may have smaller leaks. If you do only void a little bit of urine at a time, consider using smaller absorbency underwear.

Overflow Incontinence

This form of incontinence is more commonly seen in men. Known as overflow incontinence, it occurs when the passage of urine is blocked, and the bladder is not able to fully empty itself. This causes an “overflow” of urine that was unable to pass during the first emptying.

This form of UI is characterized by smaller leaks and dribbles of urine. If you have overflow incontinence, look for smaller absorbency underwear that will keep you dry from smaller leaks.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is a form of UI that occurs when the bladder muscles become overactive and signal the need to empty your bladder, even if it’s not completely full. The bladder muscles signal an urgency to the brain and send false signals to empty the bladder.

Urge incontinence can result in such intense urges to empty the bladder that you may be unable to make it to the restroom in time. If this occurs, you may void larger amounts of urine at a time compared to the smaller leaks of stress incontinence or overflow incontinence.

If you have urge incontinence, consider using protective underwear with higher absorbency.

Reflex Incontinence

This form of UI occurs without an urge or warning. If you have reflex incontinence, you may not even know you’ve emptied your bladder until you feel wet. This form of incontinence is due to nerve damage, so your bladder is unable to sense whether it’s full or not.

This form of UI is more commonly characterized by complete emptying of the bladder and larger voids of urine, but it can cause leaks as well. If you do have reflex incontinence, it may be wise to opt for larger absorbency underwear rather than a smaller one to be most prepared.

Functional Incontinence

While other types of UI are caused by an issue in the bladder muscles, nerves, or urinary tract, this form of incontinence is characterized by regular functioning of the urinary system. Functional incontinence arises due to brain damage or physical difficulty. If you have difficulty making it to the restroom in time due to a physical challenge, you may have functional incontinence.

This form of UI is more commonly present in those with brain damage due to incidents or injuries, or those who cannot physically make it to the bathroom. For instance, if your restroom is upstairs and you feel the sudden and intense urge to empty the bladder, you may be unable to make it in time, resulting in incontinence.

While there can be smaller leaks due to functional incontinence, this form of UI is usually characterized by larger voids of urine. So, if you have functional incontinence, you may want to consider a larger absorbency level to keep you dry and protected.

Check out our blog to learn more about the different types of UI, and the symptoms and causes of each. 

Know What Absorbency You Need

So, if you tend to void larger amounts of urine at a time, consider using the following levels of absorbency:

If you tend to void smaller amounts of urine due to smaller leaks or dribbles, consider using the following levels of absorbency:

Know What Size You Need

Our protective underwear comes in four different sizing options for men and women.

  • Small/medium: 28-40 inches around the waist/hips
  • Large: 38-50 inches around the waist/hips
  • Extra Large: 48-64 inches around the waist/hips
  • Extra, Extra Large: 62-80 inches around the waist/hips

If you have a tape measure at home, you can measure around your waist and hips to make sure you get the right size. To measure the waist, take the tape measure and place it around the smallest part of your body. The waist will be above or right at the belly button. To measure the hips, you will place the tape measure around the widest part of your body, and this should lie below the belly button.

Another important guideline to remember is that protective underwear should fit snugly without rubbing uncomfortably to avoid leaks.

Choose Underwear for Different Occasions

It’s also important to have different underwear for the day and nighttime. Sleep is a vital aspect of our health. If leaks wake you up at night, you likely have the wrong size or the incorrect absorbency level of overnight underwear.

For protection through the night, consider using our Maximum Absorbency Boosters, which provide an additional 4 cups of absorption. There is also our Premium Overnight Plus Underwear. With absorbency that can hold up to six cups of liquid at a time, they will help you stay dry and asleep throughout the night. You can also consider using a bed protector to help you keep your sheets and bedding dry and make clean up easy if you do wake up in the middle of the night.


If you live with urinary incontinence, there are many tools and resources available to help you manage leaks and treat incontinence. Protective underwear is one of the most popular ways to manage leaks, so knowing what absorbency and size you need are vital factors when choosing the best protective underwear for you.

For more resources on living with urinary incontinence, check out our blog. For more information on what products are available to help you stay comfortable, confident, and healthy, shop our products.



Types of Urinary Incontinence | Harvard Health

Choosing Incontinence Products | AARP

Urinary Incontinence | WHO

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