If you haven’t had an ostomy from an age you can’t remember, chances are that the thought of taking a bath after ostomy surgery can be something that fills you with apprehension. You’ve probably spent your life before surgery never giving taking a bath or a shower a second thought. It’s been part of your daily routine just like brushing your teeth or checking your phone.

It’s okay to have worries and it’s okay if everything after surgery feels super daunting. The good news is, you absolutely can take a shower and a bath with an ostomy bag and it will become part of your daily routine, just like brushing your teeth. In this blog post, I am going to answer some questions you may have all around this topic with the hope of you finding the reassurance you need by the end of reading. Please note that this is with regards to my experiences of living with an ileostomy and using a one-piece, drainable ostomy bag. Let’s get started.

How soon after ostomy surgery can you bathe or shower?

Generally, you can start showering and washing a few days after surgery, depending on what your stoma nurse advises. If you’d had your rectum and anus removed too and your bum sewn up (panproctocolectomy), then it is likely that you will have to wait longer before you have a bath (fully submerge your “barbie bum” or “ken bum” in water for a soak. It also depends on how your ostomy was formed and what wounds you have after surgery. For example, stomach incisions where surgical glue has been used may need keeping dry longer. t’s vital to follow advice from your medical team, as no two people are exactly the same in their recoveries.

Will getting water on my stoma harm it?

Absolutely not. Getting your stoma wet is not something you have to worry about and is often used when cleaning your stoma and around it. It’s more important to keep the skin around your stoma clean and dry when it comes to applying a new ostomy bag, so that the bag has the best chance of sticking to your skin properly. If you’re washing with your ostomy bag on, then there’s no reason as to why it would get wet.

Can you shower with your ostomy bag off?

Whether you shower (or take a bath) with your ostomy bag on or off is often a personal preference.

I find showering with my ostomy bag off probably once or twice a week helps my skin to feel fresh and clean. Soap washing over your stoma will not harm it, although it’s advised often to not wash the area around your stoma and the skin surrounding it directly with soap. Sometimes, the ingredients in the soap or shower gel can cause irritation to the skin. This may then lead to problems with your ostomy bag sticking.

If your ileostomy becomes active during showering, then it’s probably one of the best places to be without an ostomy bag as your output will just wash down the drain. Mainly, I shower with my bag on. Just because it’s what I’ve got used to in my routine. After my shower, I put a new bag on.

I don’t find bathing without an ostomy bag an enjoyable experience, but you can absolutely have a bath with your ostomy bag off. It won’t harm your stoma and water won’t suddenly flood into your stomach via your ostomy. I don’t enjoy bathing with my output surrounding me in the bath if my ostomy becomes active, hence why I always have a bath with my bag on, but if you know your ostomy is unlikely to be active, then this is something you might do. Either way, it’s a personal preference. I change my bag after a bath.

Does getting your ostomy bag wet stop it from sticking?

In my experience and from talking to many other ostomates, going in water with an ostomy bag on doesn’t stop it from sticking. I shower and bathe with mine, go swimming, go to spas and go in jacuzzis, sometimes for hours on end, and my bag has never been close to falling off.

It goes a bit gooey around the edges the longer you spend in water, almost a bit like soft candle wax, but I just make sure I change into a new bag when I’m out the water, especially after longer periods when swimming or at a spa. I often use extra adhesive remover to get the gooeyness off! If you’re worried and want extra security, you can use baseplate extenders like these and/or wear ostomy supportwear or ostomy swimwear. The above swimming costume is from Aura Clothing but there are other companies that do ostomy swimwear. Also, a lot of stoma waistbands can be worn under swimwear in water. They aren’t waterproof, but they’re often fine to wear underneath. Just wash them properly when you’re out. I wear normal swimwear sometimes as it is and have no problem.

Water can impact the filters on ostomy bags. Meaning that they don’t filter air out as effectively so if you keep them on after getting them submerged in water, you will likely find your bag fills up with air quicker and needs emptying of the air more if it’s bothering you. More air in your bag often means it’s more likely to bulge under your clothes, which can impact confidence for some people. Same goes in water, if you get air in your bag, it can make your bag inflate the longer you are in. Mine often does this in the bath and floats (still stuck to my stomach) towards the surface of the water.

Can you go to a spa with an ostomy?

I’ve been to a spa quite a few times now since my surgery in 2011 and my nerves and apprehensions have decreased every time. I’ve even worn a bikini before and just thought “you only live once, people will look because they’re cautious, but I’ve no reason to be ashamed.” It was hard at the time, but I did it, and I felt so much more confident for doing it. People looked, but nobody made a comment!

Respond’s useful advice and support

Respond have a blog full of posts from other ostomates on their website. Some blog posts which may help with this topic are:

Their ‘Care Range’  of ostomy products also helps promote healthy skin around your ostomy and is designed to simplify your ostomy routine.

In summary, it is absolutely possible to shower and bathe with your ostomy bag on or off. More than anything, it is vital to follow medical advice and if you have any questions or worries, then to contact your stoma nurse or medical team.

For me and for so many others, having an ostomy isn’t a hindrance. It’s given to you to help and to improve your life. It can very much become part of you and your daily routine.


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