How To Manage Pad Changes

How Often Should I Change Incontinence Pads?

Incontinence pads are designed to contain incontinence and allow people time to get to the toilet to pass their urine or faeces. They help prevent any leakage onto the person’s clothing, chair or bed and the proper use should reduce skin rashes, smell and the risk of infections. They are not designed as an alternative to using a toilet.

There are many different types of pads so the choice should suit the person’s incontinence needs and they should be changed regularly to prevent skin problems.

The average amount of urine held in a person’s bladder is about 300-400mls during the day and 500 – 800mls during the night so pads should be changed about every 4-6 hours, or as soon as possible after they become wet or soiled. Some elderly people are not able to hold these bladder amounts and can also produce more urine during the night. Pads should not be used for multiple “accidents” because re-used incontinence pads will break down and are more likely to leak. Most people use between 4 and 6 pads per 24 hour day. 

Why Am I Changing Pads More Frequently?

If people are changing incontinence pads more frequently it could be because they’re having problems with:

  • constipation, which can upset the person’s bladder and can also cause faecal incontinence
  • retention of urine, which makes the person think they need to pass more urine and can cause incontinence
  • physical activities such as lifting when the bladder is unable to hold on
  • poor fluid intake, which causes concentrated urine which then irritates the bladder and can cause constipation
  • dementia, when some people “forget” to go the toilet or experience confusion around toileting
  • nocturia, when the person needs to get up many times during the night to go to the toilet


If a person suddenly develops frequency and urgency, has urine which smells or is cloudy and incontinence with the need to change their pad more frequently, they should see their doctor for an assessment. If the problem remains, the person may benefit from a continence assessment or review from a specialist doctor, continence nurse or physiotherapist.

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