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Understanding Incontinence

Tips for Carers: Incontinence and Gender Differences

Appreciating the difference gender has on incontinence will ensure the most appropriate management
Published by Jane Granger
Tips for Carers: Incontinence and Gender Differences

Anatomical differences between men & women and how it affects incontinence

Although the function of the urinary system is the same in both sexes, there are some physical differences.

For males, the urethra (the tube through which urine flows from the bladder to outside the body) is about 18 to 20cms as runs through the length of the penis. It’s also part of the reproductive system that’s used to carry ejaculation fluid. The urethra runs through the prostate gland, which is why enlargement and other prostate issues can impact continence.

For females, the urethra is much shorter, usually 3 – 4cms and isn’t part of the reproductive system. A key difference in females is the proximity of the urethra opening to the anus and vagina, which is why women are far more susceptible to infections. The other differences are if the woman has been pregnant and/or given birth vaginally –the pelvic floor muscle, which helps control urine retention, can be weakened or damaged.



Incidence and type can also be different

A 2016 Canadian paper reported that although the prevalence of bladder issues like frequent urination and a strong and sudden urge to urinate was similar for both genders, urinary incontinence (involuntary loss) is almost three times more likely among women.

The paper also reported that

  • Women more commonly experience Stress Incontinence
  • Men are more likely to have urge or ‘mixed’ (symptoms of both Urge and Stress Incontinence)
  • Women are more bothered than men by bladder issues – probably because of the higher incidence of leakage

  • A 2003 American study called NOBLE – National Overactive Bladder Evaluation – found a correlation between Body Mass Index (BMI) and Urge Incontinence in women, but not in men. Women with a BMI over 30 were 22 times more likely to have Urge Incontinence than women with a BMI under 24
  • Men who’d had a history of prostate problems had a higher incidence of frequency and urge, but without urinary incontinence
  • Symptoms (frequency and urge) increase with age at about the same rate in both sexes


Seek professional help
As mentioned, with males, the cause may be linked to an underlying prostate issue, so it shouldn’t be ignored or put down to ‘just getting older’.

For females, the cause could be a weakened pelvic floor, prolapse or other physical condition which also warrants expert investigation.

Make an appointment to see the doctor and discuss what’s going on.



While addressing the issue, or if the doctor concludes that it will be ongoing, using products specifically designed to absorb and contain the thin, fast flow of a weak bladder will assist management and keep the wearer dry and comfortable.

TENA has a range of Male and Female specific products that have been designed to manage the anatomical difference for light to medium incontinence.

There’s also a range of Specialist Products suitable for heavy incontinence and a variety of physical needs.

Take advantage of TENA’s Free Samples to find which product and level of absorbency best suits your requirements. You can order up to three free samples at a time.





Essity Australasia makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.