What Are Adult Diapers Called?

What Are Adult Diapers Called?

Alex Alex
7 minute read

What are Adult Diapers Called?

Adult diapers are a great solution for many people living with incontinence. Companies that make these disposable undergarments for adults also give them other names such as adult briefs, pull ups, nappies, and depend's. These incontinence products are now being made to look less like diapers and more like disposable underwear. Each type is unique in terms of the reason for use, functionality, and comfort. The choice will depend on you or your loved one's personal needs but they are designed to provide peace of mind.

What are Adult Diapers?

An adult diaper, also called an adult nappy in the UK, is a special undergarment designed to be worn by adult men and women experiencing urine or fecal leaks (incontinence). They are lined with superabsorbent polymer (SAP). Polymer is a water-absorbing chemical used in adult and baby diapers as well as sanitary pads. These undergarments are disposable. You can wear them in the daytime or during sleep. Whatever they are called, they serve a great purpose for the millions of people affected by incontinence.

Incontinence Causes and Risk Factors

Incontinence means loss of bladder or bowel control. The problem commonly affects seniors, including those who live in nursing homes or need assisted living at home. But it can happen at any age of your adult life and may be temporary or persistent.

The condition happens due to loss of muscle laxity, overactive bladder (OAB), or sphincter dysfunction. Coughing, sneezing, laughing or certain physical activity that puts pressure on the bladder can trigger leaks.

Those affected usually have such strong urges to use the bathroom but they don't always make it there in time. This is especially the case for individuals with chronic diarrhea, impaired physical mobility, or cognitive impairment as seen in patients with dementia.

Age-related changes, pregnancy hormones, giving birth (vaginal and caesarian), and menopause are common risk factors for women. Prostate problems are common risk factors for men. Other causes are medications, obesity, and diabetes.

Luckily incontinence is an issue you can manage with the following types of adult protective undergarments.

Adult Briefs vs Pull Ups vs Depend's

All three types of adult diapers provide one essential purpose, and that is to prevent urine or feces leakage. But you may prefer one over the other because of comfort, ease of use, or absorbency level. You may also consider how easy the product makes it for your caregiver to care for your family member.

Adult Brief

These are "baby style" diapers designed for moderate to heavy urine or bowel incontinence. Unlike baby diapers, they have two to three tape closures on each side instead of one. The backing is made from a water-proof, fibrous cloth-like material or a plastic (poly) material. And the padding is filled with gel-forming polymer for super absorbency.

One of the biggest advantages compared to other adult incontinence products is the ability to use the bathroom or change the undergarment without entirely removing your pants. Thanks to the tabs on each side, which make it easy to open and close the brief multiple times. But they do not provide as much ease of use as pull-ons.

People might prefer the ones with cloth-like backing since it allows more discreetness without the noise created by a brief with plastic backing. The cloth-like backing also offers more breathability. There are also ones for day use, overnight, men, women, and plus-size individuals.

Adult Pull-Up

These are disposable one-piece, absorbent underwear for men and women with elastic around the waist and legs to prevent leaks. They closely resemble ordinary underwear but usually don't have fastening tabs at the sides. However, newer lines are being designed with side tabs.

Pull-on diapers, also called incontinence underwear, are made with a waterproof cloth backing and carry an inner absorbent pad that contains a polymer. Pull-ups for adults made with SAP can absorb and retain a high volume of liquid while keeping you dry and confident. But you'll quickly notice that there are different levels of absorbency depending on the brand.

Overall, this product is more suitable for mild to moderate levels of incontinence. That does not necessarily take away from the fact that it is ideal for quickly putting on and taking off during bathroom breaks.

One other notable observation is the way the padding is set in many of these products suggests it may be more suitable for women than for men.


Depend's is simply a brand name for adult disposable underwear just like "Kleenex" is a type of facial tissue. The company that makes these products designs them for urinary or fecal incontinence. A wide variety of product types, styles, sizes, and absorbency levels are available for men and women, including diapers and pull-on underwear with and without side fasteners.

Depend underwear for men is made to provide extra absorbency in the front of the diaper where leakage mostly occurs. Those for women provide additional absorbency in the front to center area where leakage mostly occurs. Additionally, these underwear for adults are designed with different types of side tabs and are adjustable to suit your needs. Some are disposable, reusable, scent-free for sensitive skin, or scented for additional odor protection.

Many caregivers recommend Depend with straps because it makes diaper changing easier for them and less hassle for your loved one.

Overall, these incontinence supplies mimic the look and feel of regular underwear. They are not big or bulky and can be worn discreetly and confidently.

Tips When Buying Diapers for Adult Incontinence

There are a variety of types, sizes, and quality of protective undergarments available online and in stores. The following tips can help you narrow your search down to a product that is best for you or your loved one:

  • Choose a type and brand for day or night use
  • Take body measurements to ensure you order the right size for the right fit
  • Decide if you prefer ones with the plastic or cloth-like backing, or side tabs/fasteners
  • Do you want the disposable or reusable type?
  • Choose a product with the level of absorbency protection you need
  • Look for a brand that neutralizes the pH in urine and stops bacterial growth
  • Consider buying online if privacy is a concern for you
  • Ask your loved one's caregiver which product makes caring easier for them

It may take a little trial and error to figure out which adult underpants you prefer. Remember, you can take advantage of samples so you can get the right fit and absorbency level.

Wearing Adult Incontinence Diapers with Confidence

Incontinence often creates stress, fear, anxiety, and even depression for those affected by it. The condition may cause you to avoid social activities and gradually reduce your quality of life. Adult disposable underpants allow you to manage bladder and bowel movement while reducing the risk of embarrassment.

The most important thing is choosing the most suitable and functional one. If you need help or have questions regarding these products (or any of our products), please send us an email at [email protected] or call us at (855) 422-4556. Thank you!


MayoClinic.org. Urinary Incontinence

Urology Foundation Care. What Is Urinary Incontinence?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevalence of Incontinence Among Older Americans (PDF)

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