Period Underwear vs. Incontinence Underwear: The Real Difference

The underwear comes in many types. There is underwear designed to be comfortable, while some are designed to make you feel sexy. 

However, there are some designed to manage bodily leaks. In comes the period and incontinence underwear. How are they different from each other?

In general, period and incontinence underwear may be different from each other in areas such as:

  • Medical condition
  • Design
  • Purpose
  • Absorbency
  • Material
  • Odor Control
  • Market
  • Cost

This article explores how period and incontinence underwear are different from one another. 

Period Underwear vs. Incontinence Underwear

AspectsPeriod UnderwearIncontinence Underwear
Medical ConditionPeriodIncontinence
PurposeTo absorb menstrual bloodTo absorb urine and other fluids
MaterialCotton, Merino Wool, Synthetic fibersMoisture-wicking synthetic fibers
DesignMore feminineMore utilitarian
AbsorbencyLess absorbentMore absorbent
Odor ControlSome may not have odor controlMost have odor control
CostLowerMore expensive

Medical Conditions

Period underwear and incontinence underwear differ in this area. Incontinence underwear manages a medical condition, while period underwear does not. 

Incontinence underwear is designed to help manage incontinence. This is a medical condition suffered by those with weak muscles around their bladder (source).

The weak muscles may be unable to keep the bladder shut, resulting in leakages. The problem can occur during workouts, laughing, or impact. 

As a result, some urine or bodily fluid may flow out accidentally. Most people with incontinence are post-menopausal women. However, some women also suffer from incontinence during and after their pregnancy.

Period underwear is not created to help with a medical condition, since the period is a natural cycle of a woman’s body. It is, however, designed to make this time of your cycle the most comfortable possible.


Period and incontinence are two very different matters. As a result, period and incontinence underwear are created with separate purposes as well. 

Period underwear is designed to be worn by women during their period. Its job is to soak up menstrual blood, which generally releases slowly.

Incontinence underwear has a different purpose. They work by quickly drawing away any accidental bodily fluids in larger amounts. 

This is because people with incontinence generally have problems keeping their bladder shut.

As a result, you may not want to wear these underwear types interchangeably. Period underwear may be unable to handle the larger volume of fluids from incontinence. 

Incontinence underwear may also not be able to handle menstrual blood well. Usually, they may become permanently stained from the blood. 


Generally, period underwear is made with materials to give good comfort. As a result, period underwear is made with cotton, merino wool or synthetic fibers such as Spandex. 

The specific moisture-wicking area is made with microfiber polyester. This is usually at the crotch panel.

For incontinence underwear, the materials may be more specific and high quality. This is because incontinence underwear usually needs to deal with more liquids. These liquids may also be quickly released in a short amount of time. 

They are usually made with polypropylene fabric or other superabsorbent polymers.

Black period underwear with lace.
Black period underwear with lace.


Period underwear is usually given a more elaborate or feminine design. You may see more shape and color types being offered. You may also see more laces or floral patterns. 

This could be a way to make the wearers feel more feminine. Many women may feel less confident during their period. 

Incontinence underwear usually has a more practical look. The cuts may be more conservative, and the colors more neutral. You may not see many lace or floral designs either. 

This could be because incontinence tends to be an issue with older women. Neutral-looking underwear may suit their age better and make them feel more ”normal.”


Generally, both underwear types are absorbent. However, you can say that incontinence underwear is more absorbent than period underwear. 

This is because period underwear only needs to deal with a small amount of menstrual blood.

Contrary to what it may seem, the average blood loss in the entire period is only 60 milliliters (around 2.7 ounces). So the amount of blood that needs to be absorbed in the few hours of wearing period panties isn’t that big.

This is not the same with incontinence underwear, where there may be a sudden, larger amount of fluids to deal with.

As a result, incontinence underwear generally is much more absorbent. Some may even have moisture-wicking properties.

Odor Control

Odor control is technology to help prevent the absorbed leakages from developing a smell. This is usually achieved by having bamboo fibers or silver ions to neutralize odor. 

Generally, most incontinence underwear comes with odor control. This is because incontinence underwear may have to deal with more bodily fluids. As a result, the likelihood of developing odor is much higher. 

With period underwear, you have options. You can either look for regular-period underwear or opt for those with odor control. 


Period underwear and incontinence underwear serve very different market segments. As a result, they also have vastly different demands and market worth.

In 2021, the period underwear market in the United States was worth $29.9 billion. Compared to that, the incontinence underwear market was much smaller. It is only worth $3.56 billion in the same year.

The reason is simple, there are simply many more pre-menopausal women. Their numbers would be higher than post-menopausal women with incontinence issues. As a result, there will be more demand for period underwear. 

There may be pre-menopausal women with incontinence issues as well. However, their numbers are insufficient to influence the incontinence underwear market.


In many cases, incontinence underwear is generally more expensive than period underwear. This is because incontinence underwear may generally use more fabric to make. 

Incontinence underwear also uses higher quality material. This is because they have to deal with a larger amount of fluid. Most also have to add features such as odor control, too. 

In contrast, you have a wider range of period underwear. There are high-quality ones that could cost a lot. You can also have basic period underwear that only uses basic materials. There may not be any odor control features either. 


When I first became a mom, it shocked me how much more waste we produced by adding a tiny little member to our family. Since then, it's become very important to me to be more sustainable as a family. I'm excited to share with you what I'm learning along the way!

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