In Defense of Diapers

by Richard Taylor:
diaper defense
If, like me, you have read the last couple of TDI Newsletters you will have been following the discussion on the use of P-valves for Dry Suits, with two great articles, each written from a different perspective. The first was the domain of the male diver, with the usual highlights on size, strength and “stick-ability” (yep… us boys never change!), whilst the second was a fascinating insight from the female perspective. As an older male diver I never cease to be amazed at the lengths ladies seem to have to go to… to… literally, “go”. For guys it’s easy… we are traditionally like dogs – the world’s our toilet! But girls, in some aspects – you got the short straw.

Now, whilst both these points of view have been humorous and educational, they both took the position that there is really no acceptable alternative than to rip open a hole in your expensive, brand-new dry suit, have some creative and sometimes painful methodology of cementing a plastic tube from an intimate and sensitive part of your anatomy to some sort of valve, and spend hours in the water happily swimming around relieving yourself into the mighty blue within which you are floating (sort of like peeing into a very big bath if you ask me). Believe me… I, like probably most, enjoyed the imagery! However, and this may come as a surprise to many, there was an alternative long before p-valves, and there will be one long after you have hung up your last dry suit. It’s one of those “D” words divers don’t really like talking about… Decompression, Dehydration, and Diapers!

When we talk about Diapers, let’s make sure we understand a few things. Firstly, we are not talking about swimming around wearing elasticized plastic pants sloshing around in a bath of our own wee! If you want to do that please keep that in the privacy of your own home. Secondly, we are not talking about wrap around nappies with huge plastic safety pins and regulators that look like dummies (pacifiers) with honey on them. If you want THAT then you need to go back to an early issue of that great 90’s tech diving magazine AquaCorps (some images just will never go away!). We are talking about wearing Adult Diapers for comfort.

Okay… I appreciate that many people go “Yuck” and “Eeww” and suchlike when they think about using Diapers, or Adult Nappies if you wish. But, let’s be honest… not every man is built like Dumbo and most don’t improve in the cold. And as for you ladies, not everyone wants to share all their glory with a minimum wage beautician, most don’t like hot wax and pain down there and, to be real… how many of you really want to go through life looking like a pre-pubescent 8 year old (we won’t all be in our 20’s & 30’s forever and many European girls don’t even shave under their arms). So, let’s have an honest look at the alternative and some of the pros & cons!

Firstly, ”No-one wears those”! I am sure most of you have come across the Adult Diaper section of the Supermarket or Pharmacy. But have you ever wondered why they are on the shelves and not hidden away in some private unmarked cupboard? Simply… there are lots of people that use them. The global market is worth over $8 billion and it is growing at 8%, higher than any other toiletry market (including toilet paper!). Over 25 million Americans buy them every year.

Secondly, ”I’m not going to wear them”! HA! Boy do I have news for you! One in 3 women over the age of 18 suffers from some sort of sensitive bladder or incontinence. 50% of Seniors have some form of “urinary weakness” whilst 80% of people who wear adult diapers are female, mostly caused by the joys of childbirth. That means that unless you are either going to be childless, have babies only by Caesarean or be a grumpy old man with wet pants, then odds are that you are going to be visiting the Adult Diaper section of the Supermarket long before your days are through. So get over it!

Thirdly, ”I don’t want to sit in my own waste for hours”. Let’s break this one up shall we!

“…for hours”…! Not all of you are going to be Explorer Club Divers spending 3 hours decompressing from a 250’ cave exploration dive in the middle of Guatemala! Most of us are doing this for fun! Most of your students are going to be doing this for fun! Yes, we all want to channel our own inner Sheck Exley or Lloyd Bridges, but the reality is most boat trips, most cave dives, and most shore dives are a couple of hours max.

“…my own waste…”! Okay, Nappies/Diapers are there to absorb and contain our waste. (yes, you can get diapers for “number twos”, but as a p-valve doesn’t go there then we don’t need to either!). I am not too sure how many of you have ever picked up a baby with a wet nappy, however it doesn’t shower wee down its legs or have a pool of liquid inside. Diapers are designed to take the liquid away from the body and have it absorbed in gel type pads, leaving the body relatively dry. And if nappies weren’t a clean and sanitary option for their baby, do you really think so many moms would use them? And babies will use them a lot more than we ever will (well…for a few years anyway!).

Fourthly, ”But I pee SO much after just 30 minutes!”. My goodness… how much are you drinking before you go diving? It amazes me the number of people I see who are literally guzzling down drinks before a dive! What’s worse, half of it is either a Grande (or Venti) coffee or super-sized Coke! Have you people never heard of diuretics? These things make you go to the toilet! Add to that the high sugar drinks I see being drunk and you have to wonder whether they have ever heard of diabetes, let alone blood glucose levels!

So we need to talk about hydration. You pee because your body has produced excess fluid waste… the darker it is the more dehydrated you are becoming. We used to say 64 US fluid ounces per day, or just under 2 litres, equated to about a recommended 6-8 tall glasses of water a day. Now days, it is considered more appropriate to consider 6-8 cups per day, or just under 1.5 litres, in addition to a balanced healthy food intake. Your kidneys process about 4 cups an hour, so when you drink more what do you think happens to it? Right… hello bladder! The best method to hydrate your body is a constant intake of small quantities of water. Yes… WATER! Slowly! ALL THE TIME! Sip it! Don’t guzzle. This will keep your body hydrated and avoid excess fluid being directed immediately to your bladder! You will still wee… but your wees will be regular and smaller.

Yes, we dehydrate more when we dive… we all know this! Anecdotally it is said we dehydrate just over 1 litre of the body’s water (33 US fluid ounces) for every 88 cuft of dry compressed air we breathe. How precise that is who knows, but the principle is pretty right. Our rate of dehydration increases when we dive for many reasons, the dry air being one. So we need to compensate for this. The best method is of course by fluids while we dive (water filled camel packs anyone?), but having a well hydrated body before we dive is the most practical. This means being hydrated before we dive, not guzzling a gallon of caffeine before we hop in our dry suit and apply that nice tight weight belt or harness strap over our bladder! And if you are diving a CCR… what on earth did your instructor teach you about one of the benefits of “the warm moist air” anyway?

The net result is that if we are well balanced and hydrated before the dive, have gone to the toilet regularly and have not drunk copious diuretics, our wee requirements will be smaller. Now there is no problem with doing a huge wee in a diaper. Most babies don’t “control the flow”… they just let it go when they need to go! Well, using an Adult Diaper we need to learn the same. Don’t hold it in… just relax. The first time you feel like you need to go… go! This is how babies and all those incontinent mothers and seniors go… all the time!
Now, I know many of you are sitting there going “No Way”, “Not Me” and “It’ll spill into my dry suit”! So, don’t take my word for it… test it! Get hydrated, limit the coffee and sodas and go try it out in the shower! That’s how I was taught to get used to them… and that’s how I tell my students to try. If at first you don’t succeed, then just relax… and tackle it slowly. Oh, and if your partner asks why you are dressed in the shower in a nappy just smile and invite them in… their reaction will be priceless!

Let’s be honest, Adult Diapers are not for everyone. But neither are sticky condoms, lasered genitals and waxing! It is a discussion many divers need to have, and regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, it is one that every instructor needs to have a balanced look at. Of the many technical divers I have taught over the years, most of the ladies have tried them and many of the instructors now discuss this subject equally along with p-valves. As professionals, we have an obligation to be able to discuss both sides fairly. It is, after all, the diver’s choice!

Ohh… and lastly… don’t forget the benefits.

One – they are simple to use and require little “personal preparation” (and just because you wear them doesn’t mean you’ve used them)!

Two – they are available in most Supermarkets or Pharmacies around the globe!

Three – odds are you will have to use them one day so you may as well get used to them now!

And number Four – think of the potential of enjoying the Super Bowl without having to get up and lose your prime spot in front of the TV or having to move from your seat at the game! (Though, to be honest, I still haven’t convinced my wife on letting me test these applications!).

Safe diving… and a dry and comfortable one too!

By Richard Taylor
SDI/TDI Instructor Trainer. Member since 1995.