A reported 165 000–200 000 people are living with a stoma in the UK, with approximately 21 000 patients undergoing stoma formation surgery each year (Colostomy UK, 2021).
Dressing with a stoma bag hanging from your stomach can be a challenge, many want to hide it, many want to share it, but I think all will agree it throws up a few challenges whichever way you go. I hope by sharing this light hearted post, it gives hope and ideas to those of us fighting the fight to live a normal life.
So why, firstly, is it such a challenge?
When you head off to surgery you are marked up for where they will hopefully place your stoma, I remember vividly the horror and fear that bought, above waist, below, above belly fat, below and for many, where won’t it sit on scar tissue?
Typically an Ileostomy stoma is placed on the right side of your abdomen, and a colostomy on the left. For me I’ve had an Ileostomy on my right and now on my second, that’s on my left, which confuses Drs often 🥴.
Next the choice high or low waiste line? High and it will sit under your shirt above bottom clothing, and below it will tuck into your underwear. For me I have had a caesarean section birth so I have already got a baby pouch of fat and scars, but due to my pear shape, both of mine have been at belly button height. Bit awkward as they sit just under my waist and can bulge.
I have a lot of scar tissue and I personally find wearing a waist band very uncomfortable, it puts pressure down on my stomach and makes me feel queasy… So I have to wear loose waisted outfits.
There are so many support undies on the market, many ostomy specialised such as Comfizz (which I live in) https://comfizz.com/, Vanilla Blush https://www.vblush.com/en/product/ladies-black-nhs-ostomy-underwear, Ostomy Secrets https://www.ostomysecrets.com/, to name just a few (not affiliated with any, just what I've used). They are even available on prescription in the UK so many undies and support garments free!
The right underwear is important as it gives secure, appropriate support where needed to help avoid the dreaded hernias and leaks.
Support underwear was my godsend on my wedding day, I had support, comdort and confidence, I chose a wedding dress that was high waisted so it didn't touch my stoma, it gave me room if my bag ballooned and made it easier to empty when needed 🥰
Onto outer or inner wear?
I love my pouch, it saved my life and is my badge of honour, my body is amazing and has adjusted to living without a major part of the digestive system, yet I still live to the fullest! What's not to love! That said, I am not one that wears my bag on show daily, I have a lot of insecurity about my body, I have been large and small, been toned and fatty, and I am my worse critic! I'm vain I know that and I want to like what I see, I don't always so I choose to cover up, not my pouch but my pear shape and my bulges. Unless on the beach and it's hot, then it's bag out loud and proud 😜🤣. So my insecurity is around my figure not my pouch. Everyone is different and not everyone sees what we see!
What to wear?
Now the fun part, here are just a few of my ‘Bag? What bag? Pics, I hope they may give some ideas to those of you struggling to find your look.
For work I opt for leggings with a high wide waist band, loose fitting tunics, long high waisted skirts or long shirts.
For exercise I opt for bib bottom cycle leggings so no waist band at all and very comfortable, swimming, an all in one as it stops my bag back filling with water and balloning, and the beach anything goes ;)
And casual, on the rare occasion I can tolerate the pressure, jeans, jeggings and shorts 🥰
So if you choose to wear your bag inside or out, I hope this gives some inspiration and ideas to make dressing with a stoma fun not painful.
Thank you for reading this cheeky blog, I hope I have helped ease some concerns to those facing surgery and added to my plight to make IBD Visible and less of a taboo!
Please share your dressing tips and tricks, I'd love to see what works for you.
Stay well and keep fighting