The first time I had an ileostomy, in 2007, I threw away all of my clothes. I bought joggers and baggy T-shirts, and I thought that’s just how it had to be. I wore my stoma bag over the waistband of my trousers, which obviously limited what I could wear, and all of my tops had to be a certain length so that the bottom didn’t poke out.
Clothing weren’t something that the stoma nurse had initially mentioned, and I’d assumed that I couldn’t have anything over my stoma. She later revealed that I could have my bag under things, but high waisted options weren’t a thing at the time, so the waistband often made my bag stick out more at the top; meaning more baggy tops! I was so uncomfortable with myself and how I looked, so I spent the whole two years feeling that way until I had my stoma reversed.
Years later, in 2014, I had ileostomy number two. By this point, I knew many other people with IBD and ostomies from online support groups. I knew about the existence of ostomy underwear and waistbands. I did get some, but I rarely used them. You might be entitled to some ostomy underwear, waistbands, and support belts on prescription, so do check with your stoma nurse. I mainly stuck to wearing tighter vest tops underneath whatever I was wearing in the colder months. During the summer I wore tights over my bag, or skater style dresses.
My newest stoma was created in 2018. This time around, I’ve actually just stuck with standard cotton underwear to wear over my bag. I did buy some ostomy underwear, but I found the elasticated waists on some of them quite uncomfortable, and they often pulled me in giving the appearance of belly rolls where there are none. I do know that some people swear by certain brands of ostomy underwear, so it could be the fact that I’m pretty short, so maybe the waistband just sits in the wrong place. Others were just too thick and made me sweaty.
My daily wear underwear is from M&S. They’re full briefs with a soft lace waistband (no rolls), and they cover the majority of my bag and keep it nice and flat. Most importantly, they’re super comfortable! I feel like I can literally wear anything I want over them! I regularly wear leggings, which are obviously tight. I just have to be mindful that I may need to empty more when I’m out and about because the bag is squished.
I do feel much more comfortable in high waisted bottoms, simply because the bag has plenty of room then. I find lower waistbands sometimes sit in the wrong place, and output can get stuck at the top of the bag, above the waistband. Same with underwear!
At this point, I don’t actually mind my ostomy bag being on show. Everyone I know is aware that it’s there, and strangers don’t matter. I would happily educate anyone that asked about it, but so far, no one actually has.
There’s quite a lot of ostomy underwear, swimwear, and clothing companies now. I can’t really personally recommend any, because as mentioned above, I’ve actually found that M&S full briefs allow me to wear whatever I want, so I haven’t needed to try any adapted clothing either. That said, you might find something that really suits you. I would definitely advise just buying one item to try first, as I wasted a lot of money on underwear that I didn’t wear. Bag covers are also widely available. I personally like StomaStyle, as Lisa creates the bag covers for your specific bag, so they fit perfectly!
The only thing that really matters is that you are comfortable.
Some companies to check out:
About the advice and opinions of our bloggers
We hope you enjoyed this article from our guest blogger. They are expressing their views or knowledge on a topic because of their experience & background. Some of the opinions expressed may not reflect the views of Fittleworth or your NHS professional.
It goes without saying, but this is not clinical advice. Each person will have an individual set of medical factors to consider. So please do not to make significant changes to your diet, exercise or treatments before consulting with an NHS professional.
Sahara was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 19, after just two weeks of being incredibly unwell. One week later, she had emergency surgery to remove her colon and rectum, and had her first ileostomy. A turbulent journey followed; a multitude of treatments, complications, seven surgeries, a failed J-Pouch, and three ileostomies later, she is living with a permanent stoma and is a pro-active IBD and ostomy advocate.
Sahara joined the online IBD and ostomy community in 2014, and it very quickly became apparent to her that whilst awareness is important, even more important than that is providing support to others as they navigate the stormy waters of life with IBD, or an ostomy.
She runs #IBDSuperHeroes fundraising and awareness campaign, and the Facebook support group. She is a blogger for InflammatortyBowelDisease.net and an IBD Patient Consultant for merakoi – bridging the gap between patients and healthcare. She gets involved with research whenever she can, and is a volunteer for Cure Crohn’s Colitis, where she donates her time and expertise in social media marketing and content creation.