How to Manage Your Colostomy and Stoma Bag After Colon Surgery

The thought of having to wear a colostomy bag is one of the most distressing (to say the least) thoughts that'll bother you for some time after having gone through colon surgery.

There is turmoil in your mind. Questions flying here and there in the recesses of your mind.

  • How will I cope?
  • Can I do this on my own?
  • Will people notice?
  • Oh my goodness, how will I live with this, day in, day out?

However, the most nagging question of all is:

"WILL I SMELL?"

Google Images - Labelled for reuse with modification
Google Images - Labelled for reuse with modification

These feelings and thoughts are not uncommon. All new ostomates feel this way at first. You may even discover that weeks after surgery you are still grappling with these thoughts.

Believe me, this is certainly a 'new way of life' and it requires inner strength to get used to it. It doesn't matter if your colostomy is temporary or permanent,

But one thing is for sure, to pluck up courage and adapt to a few changes to your lifestyle with a stoma is easier than many new ostomy patients may believe.

It's just that initial shock and . . . It will pass.

Most ostomates find that after the initial short term distress, they develop a strong will and calm acceptance. Positive thoughts begin to erupt. This, coupled with proper ostomy management will make an ostomate pleasantly realise that quality of life can really remain the same. It might spur on a sense of confidence and even become better. I can personally attest to that!

What's the Function of a Colostomy Bag?

First let me briefly mention what a colostomy is. It's a surgical procedure that involves the diversion of a part of the colon to the exterior through an opening attached to an incised hole in the walls of the abdomen. The round pinkish 'button' at the opening is referred to as a stoma.

Colostomy Patient
Colostomy Patient | Source

Now, because the opening is external, a colostomy bag (pouch) must be attached to the stoma for collection of human waste which comes out involuntarily and most times unexpectedly.

This is to say that colostomy bags are meant to collect the waste that under normal conditions passes through the colon to the rectum, and out via the anal opening, down into the toilet. To be flushed!

With the bag, waste that collects there is either emptied at intervals, or changed completely. This depends on the type of bag you use.

Coping with using an ostomy bag has never been easier. Wearing a bag is no more a big deal.

If you told me that the first week after surgery, I'd burst into tears, thinking its just words to make me feel better. But it’s true.

Its really not so hard to live with a colostomy anymore, what with today’s technological advancement in the production of essential and easy to use medical supplies (like colostomy products) which has allowed modern day ostomy appliances to become very discreet, secure and most importantly . . . you'll want to hear this . . . ODOUR FREE!

And the great thing about it all is that no one, except those who you choose to, need ever know you are wearing a bag. People are usually oblivious to your condition.

Today, you will find ostomates that flaunt their pouches while wearing their bikini or crop tops and jeans! How about that?

Today, ostomy supplies can be delivered to your doorstep, wrapped in unmarked boxes or with discreet labels.

Home delivery of medical supplies such as these is also great in helping you manage and cope successfully with a colostomy because you don’t need to go out to purchase appliances, to the glaring view of others.

Main Types of Colostomy Pouches

There are two different types of colostomy bags:

  1. Stick on
  2. Strap on

We all have different choices when it comes our preferences. The stick on types are the modern ones, and is virtually fuss-free. It is afixed over the stoma with a thick waxy faceplate that's sticky on one side. With this type, you have to carefully stick it on so its totally sealed. There must be no air pockets which may widen and encourage leakages. It may sound complicated to fit, but it isn't, once you get the hang of it. Many ostomates prefer the stick-on types.

The strap on colostomy bag on the other hand is fitted over the stoma and held with a belt that goes round your abdomen to hold it in place. Some users find this type fairly uncomfortable but that's a matter of opinion.

Changing Your Colostomy Bag - What to Expect

You will almost gag the first week or so that you start to chsnge your ostomy bag by yourself because of the VERY strong smell, but no worries . . . you will get used to that, even before you realise it.

Having said that, management is fairly straightforward, and after a few tries, you'll master how to apply your colostomy bag within 7 to 10 minutes. And soon you'll become an expert, changing within 5 minutes and emptying in a couple of minutes.

But there are certain actions you'll have to take to ensure proper care, hygiene, installation, and fit....

  1. Ensure the stoma and its surrounds is shaved occasionally to avoid hair pulling when you change bags.
  2. Avoid nicking the stoma whilst shaving to avoid bleeding. Remember the stoma has no pain sensors; you won't know until you notice bleeding.
  3. If bleeding becomes severe, get medical assistance ASAP
  4. Don’t be alarmed if you notice minimal bleeding sometimes. Most times, it’s nothing to worry about and it will stop almost as soon as it happens.
  5. Try to stand erect when installing your pouch. You don't want to create folds on your skin which hampers perfect adherence of the sticky faceplate.
  6. Apply your colostomy bag to clean, dry, oil free skin. You need maximum adherence.
  7. The stick on types comes with a template in the pack. This template has different sized holes. Find the hole that closely fits your stoma and use it cut out your stoma size on the waxy faceplate. Ensure it’s not cut tight or it will cause bruising if it pinches the edges of the stoma.
  8. If need be, apply a bit of stoma paste around the edge of the cutout hole. This acts as a seal for protection against any faecal leakage.
  9. Ensure the opening for draining the bag hangs straight down; this makes it easier to clean out between changes.
  10. Always make sure you securely clamp (or fold over & Velcro-fix) the bottom of drain-able colostomy bags. You don't want horrible mishaps, like leaks!
  11. If you feel an itchy sensation in the area of the face plate, don't feel tempted to remove your bag and scratch. The best way to ease this is to apply pressure and gently rub over spot that itches. Don't scratch your around the stoma ring or it will bleed.
  12. Your bag will get filled with air (you still pass gas!) and tend to balloon out every now and then, especially if you take fizzy drinks. You'll need to expel this air. Its simple if you use drain-able bags. Just sit backwards on the toilet, facing its back, the same way you'd sit when emptying it. Un-clamp the bag, tilt the end up, then gently push out the gas by using the palm of you hand in a slow sliding motion . . . up to down . . . while the gas bleeds out. Expel all built-up gas.
  13. Carry a couple (at least) of extra colostomy bags with you AT ALL TIMES, whenever you go out. You can never be too careful. Today's ostomy supplies are so compact, you can have them in a purse or even your pocket. In the event of an emergency, you will be glad you did.

An Important Point to Note

If you are going out for a meal or expecting guests for dinner ( for instance), change or empty your bag before the meal. From experience, waste is expelled almost immediately after eating, so it’s good to have ample space for it.

After Colon Surgery – What's Next?

Living a happy life and continuing with your lifestyle, career, and/or studies is easy and you will find that coping with a colostomy is relatively simple.

It’s so simple that you’ll be changing colostomy bags in less than 5 minutes once you know how to.


It’s also good to know that having a colostomy is a very common thing with millions of people all over the world wearing a colostomy bag.

There are many people walking around with colostomy bags or pouches, at work, at school, in the clubs partying, and doing any other day to day activity.

Gone are the days when colostomy patients hid behind closed doors, become reclusive, shy, gradually developing anti-social habits.

Wearing ostomy bags because of colon surgery need not hamper your usual habits as long as you eat and drink sensibly.

There are no hard and fast rules about diet but if you keep to a simple diet and ensure proper stoma care by keeping it clean around the hole, you will be fine and chances are that many times you’ll forget you are wearing a colostomy appliance.

Trust me.

© 2010 AloBeDa

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Comments are Welcome 2 comments

joseph strigle 13 months ago

what about not going everyday


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AloBeDa 13 months ago from The Global Village Author

@joseph I'm not quite sure i understand your question, but if it's what i think it is, "not going everyday" may be due to a mild constipation (OR not eating enough food that'll make you go everyday). Quite common with a colostomy.

For mild constipation, my doctor recommended a very mild laxative and it did work.

Hope i've answered your question.

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