Continence FAQs

Originally published on: September 24th, 2020. Last modified on June 29th, 2021

If you are experiencing continence issues, or someone you know is, these frequently asked questions may help you in understanding what help is available. It’s important to remember that if you are concerned by your continence health, it’s OK to seek professional advice. Often, your local GP or continence clinic may be the best place to start. You can find your local clinic via our Healthcare Professional Finder.

Key Questions about Managing Continence

Q. Caring for older family members who have MS or other conditions which affect their dexterity can make changing pads quite messy, especially if they have faecal incontinence too, is there anything that will help?

A. Helping loved ones to self-toilet is always what we want for those we care for.  A pull-up pant style product can help with this.  By using the tear away side seams and removing the pad from the front can help avoid leakages onto clothing.  Also consider using a cleansing product such as moist tissues which are gentle on the skin, are impregnated with cleansing lotion for a thorough clean and takes away odours.  

Find out more information on how to maintain good hygiene for someone you care for here.

Q. Can I get pads from the NHS for free?

A. If you have a long term, ongoing condition of moderate to heavy incontinence, you may be entitled to incontinence pads on prescription from the NHS free of charge.

Many people aren’t aware, but sufferers can get a referral either from their GP, or in some areas of the UK, refer themselves to their local Bladder and Bowel Service or Continence Service. A specialist continence nurse will assess your condition and may be able to prescribe pads which are delivered to your home on a Home Delivery Service.  The Nurse will also talk through any underlying factors that may be contributing to incontinence and discuss treatments which may enable the sufferer to become continent again.

Q. Obtaining pads has become more difficult during lockdown and its very embarrassing to buy them from the supermarket, where can I get them from without anyone knowing I have a problem?

A. As well as the supermarket, there are a lot of companies that sell pads online and will have them delivered directly to your home.  We’ve partnered with HARTMANN Direct who sell a broad range of styles and absorbencies, for men and women, in discreet and feminine or masculine styles.

Specialist online retailers like HARTMANN Direct know that discretion is important to sufferers, so products are delivered in discreet packaging so that the postman and your neighbours won’t know what’s being delivered to your house.

Bladder & Bowel Community members can also benefit from 20% off orders with HARTMANN Direct when using coupon code BBC20 at the checkout or over the phone.

If you’ve never bought anything online, or prefer to speak to someone, we also have an experienced team of Customer Services Advisors who talk to people every day in the same situation – so there is no need to feel embarrassed.

Q. I sometimes get a sudden urge to go to the toilet and end up having accidents because I can’t make it to the toilet in time. What can I do?

A. Some people can feel a sudden need to go to the toilet, without warning, followed by the bladder emptying before they can make it to the toilet.  This is called Urge Incontinence or an Overactive Bladder.  This type of incontinence is caused by abnormal bladder contractions. Normally, muscles control the flow or urine from the bladder, but with urge incontinence, the muscles are overactive and contract causing urine to leak.

Urge incontinence can be very distressing, with frequent uncontrollable urges to urinate, this can even happen at night causing you to wake up frequently and go to the toilet or worrying about wetting the bed in the night. 

The cause of urge incontinence, in many cases, can’t be identified but there may be an explanation or underlying cause if the bladder is irritated, or you have an underlying condition such as diabetes, stroke, MS, or Parkinson’s disease.

Read more about Urge Incontinence and Overactive Bladders from these two useful articles.