UnityPoint Health - Des Moines

Ostomy FAQs

1. Where do I get my supplies?

  • Typically, stores that carry durable medical equipment carry the most ostomy supplies. In rural areas, local pharmacies may carry the ostomy supplies specifically for you. There are also mail order companies that have ostomy equipment.
  • If you have homecare and have Medicare insurance, your homecare provider will give you supplies.

2. My stoma has gotten smaller after surgery. What do I do?

  • It is normal for the stoma to shrink in size after surgery.
  • The size will decrease up to 6 weeks following surgery.
  • Cut opening just slightly larger than the stoma, so that your skin is protected and the wafer does not rub on your stoma.
  • If you have trouble getting the wafer/pouch to stick, check the Skin Care section.

3.  I see blood on my wash cloth when I change my pouch. Should I worry?

  • No, a small amount of blood is normal as you clean over the stoma.
  • Contact your medical doctor if you have blood in your stools.

4. Can I take a shower? Can I go swimming?

  • Yes. You may bathe with your wafer/pouch on or off.
  • If you will be under water for more than 10 minutes, you may need to use waterproof tape at the edges to hold them more secure.

5. What can I do to increase wear time of my ostomy pouch?

  • Sometimes just a slight change in equipment or technique can increase wear time.
  • An ostomy belt may give added support needed to increase wear time.
  • Make an appointment with the ostomy nurse for suggestions.

6. What should I do if I notice a change in my bowel habits?

  • Fiber can treat diarrhea or constipation.
  • Diarrhea can be slowed by eating foods like potatoes, cheese, bananas, marshmallows.
  • Constipation can be corrected by increasing fluid intake and increasing mobility.
  • Check with your medical doctor if you have unexplained changes in bowel habits.

7. Will I still be able to go to activities?

 Yes, most ostomates return to the usual activities they did before ostomy surgery.

8. Will people be able to smell my ostomy?

  • No, the current pouches are odor-proof and people with ostomies do not have odor as long as the wafer and pouch are stuck down well and are clean.

9. Can I travel in an airplane?

  • Yes, carry your ostomy supplies with you on the airplane. Do not check them with your luggage. If scissors  are necessary, bring a prescription from the doctor so you can have them on the airplane.

10. Can I wear my same clothes?

  • After the soreness and swelling from surgery subside, you usually can fit into your clothing.
  • If your stoma is at or near the waistline, try to avoid pressure from tight-waisted pants or belts.
  • Many men who wear athletic supporters find it helpful to wear them one size larger.

11. What do I do about gas in my pouch?

  • Consider diet changes to decrease gas. For example, things that increase gas are carbonated drinks, chewing gum, using a straw and talking while eating. Certain foods also increase gas like onions, cabbage, and beans.
  • Charcoal filters for gas are available for the ostomy pouches. Call the ostomy company or your Ostomy Nurse.