It’s certainly possible to manage without any special or customized clothing when you have an ostomy, but you’re unlikely to transition from the life of a non-ostomate to ostomate without having to give some thought to your manner of dress. A lot of the adjustment will depend on the size and location of your stoma — some people choose to avoid interfering with their ostomy bags entirely by wearing low-cut pants and underwear, and baggy shirts. Honestly with my first ostomy, the fashion at the time was high-cut underwear and jeans (It was the 90s!). So for the short six months I had to deal with it (three of those spent in and out of hospital), I didn’t make any changes to my wardrobe.
This time around, with my plan to make the ostomy permanent, I’m much more focused on making changes that make me feel good about my ostomy, and ones that encourage me to get out of the house. Beyond that, there are some practical reasons to ensure you have good support for your ostomy — the major ones being hernia and prolapse. The skin and muscles around your stoma need support to ensure no herniation of the bowel — the opening the doctors created for your stoma is a weak point in the muscle. While many people never get hernias, you’re at greatest risk for one right after surgery, as your body is healing. Appropriate support won’t completely eliminate your risk for hernia (obviously heavy lifting is the greatest risk factor), but it’s a good tool, and has other benefits like keeping your bag supported and flatter, so you’re not self-conscious about it.
There aren’t actually many different companies out there offering ostomy underwear, and a lot of them are pretty boring and generic (and of questionable quality). Which is why I was pretty excited to find Vanilla Blush, a Scottish lingerie company which offers ostomy underwear, bathing suits and hernia support garments. These aren’t standard boring tighty-whities! Vanilla Blush offers beautiful, well-made high-waisted panties in a huge variety of bright colours, and even includes specialty panties like thongs and intimacy panties (Basically crotchless panties that hold your ostomy bag in place during sex).
They also offer a variety of boxers and briefs for men in great colours.
What makes these ‘ostomy’ underwear, besides being high-waisted and snug-fitting, is the inner pocket. Each pair has an inner cotton pocket that you slide your ostomy bag into. Besides support, this pocket also has the added benefit of keeping your ostomy bag off of your skin, which can reduce skin problems caused by sweat from the plastic of your bag (and warm contents) being pressed against your body. Reducing skin moisture can also increase the length of time between bag changes, since sweat can reduce the effectiveness of the adhesive on your wafer.
For those living in the UK, Vanilla Blush does offer some cotton panties which may be covered by your government health benefits (NHS). For the rest of us outside the UK, purchasing these panties isn’t completely out of reach – I have found Vanilla Blush’s delivery service to Canada very quick, with shipping costs comparable to when I order from the US. I tend to wait for sales to offset some of the costs. Your best bet to keep on top of sales is to follow them on instagram @vanillablush, where they post discounts on Thursdays and Fridays!