How Often Should You Change Your Ostomy Pouch?

December 08,2022 |
Man with an ostomy pouch.

Undergoing an ostomy surgery can create significant changes in your daily life. Although they may seem cumbersome, or even frustrating at first, over time things will get easier. Regardless of if you have a temporary ostomy or are adapting to life with a permanent one, you’ll need to get to know the ins and outs of your ostomy pouching system. This includes knowing how to care for it, what supplies you need, and how often you should change your ostomy pouch.


Everything You Need to Know About Changing Your Ostomy Pouch

Every person will have different stoma output depending on their lifestyle, diet, and metabolism. Some people may notice that they don’t need to change their pouch very often, while others may feel like they’re changing it every day. The important thing is to find the best timeline that works for you. On average, most people will need to change their pouching system every three to five days.

It’s important to avoid putting off changing your ostomy pouch. If you need to change it sooner than the “average” timeline, that’s okay. It’s normal for schedules to vary between individuals. However, if you find yourself going through a significant amount of pouch changes in a short amount of time, contact your ostomy nurse. This is especially true if your pouching system seems to be prone to leaks. Your team of ostomy professionals can help you determine what’s going on and how to make the necessary changes.

How to Know When to Change Your Pouch

Although it might seem like you need to change your ostomy bag as soon as there is any output inside, that’s not the case. Your pouching system was designed to hold output for a few days, so it’s nothing urgent. Although it can be difficult to get used to, eventually you won’t even notice. As a rule of thumb, most people change their pouching system roughly every three days. However, you may change it more or less frequently depending on output.

If you’re changing your ostomy pouching system based on output levels, never let it get more than two-thirds of the way full. This increases the risk of leaks, and the increased weight can be irritating to your skin. So, either change your ostomy pouch every three to five days or once your ostomy bag is about two-thirds full.

When is the Best Time to Change Your Pouch?

This is more of a personal preference, but most ostomates find that the best time to change their pouching system is either first thing in the morning or right before bed. This can help you prepare for a day without worrying about the contents of your ostomy bag or a night of peaceful sleep. It also tends to result in easier changes, as ostomates report not having as much stoma output at these hours.

If you notice that your stoma is more active during these times, you may want to consider changing your pouch in the middle of the day. Depending on your schedule, this could mean pouching in difficult situations. To help you prepare, spend some time practicing at home and make sure that you always have necessary ostomy supplies on hand.

Although you can absolutely swim with an ostomy pouch that you put on earlier, some ostomates find it more comforting to change their pouch right before water activities. If this makes you feel more confident while you’re enjoying your swim, that’s great! You can also do some tests at home to make sure your pouching system is secure before getting it wet.

How to Change Your Ostomy Pouch

The way you change your ostomy pouch depends on the system you have. Regardless, always make sure that you take the time to thoroughly wash your hands and sanitize your area. Start by removing your current ostomy pouch and washing the stoma and peristomal skin with warm water or an ostomy-friendly cleaning product. Make sure that you give your stoma plenty of time to dry before reapplying a wafer, as doing so too early could interfere with the adhesion.

Once dry, get your ostomy wafer and apply it around your stoma. To easily connect a two-piece ostomy pouching system simply connect the wafer and the pouch, then apply the ostomy system directly to your body. If you have a one-piece ostomy pouching system, you simply attach the entire piece to your body at once. Learning more information about different types of ostomy bags and how to apply them is an important step in securely changing your pouch.

Some manufacturers have different timelines for their products, but you should never go more than seven days without changing your ostomy pouch. Products are usually not designed to withstand this amount of time and putting off changing your pouch can lead to some pretty serious accidents. It could also cause damage to the peristomal skin, especially if the pouch is getting increasingly heavier each day.


A Few Tips on Changing Your Ostomy Pouch

Chances are, you’re not going to be a pro at changing your ostomy pouch from the start. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Learning how to navigate an ostomy can take time, but with a little practice you’ll quickly get the hang of it. To help, consider some of the following tips.

Pay Attention to Peristomal Skin

The skin that surrounds your stoma is called the peristomal skin. This is where your ostomy pouch will attach to. Understandably so, it can be more sensitive and prone to irritation, especially if not cared for properly. Try to pay attention to the health and appearance of your peristomal skin and give it a little time to breathe in between pouching changes. You may want to use ostomy-specific skin irritation products, but the best way to make sure that it remains healthy is to properly size your ostomy pouching system.

By using Byram Healthcare’s Custom Cutting Program,you’ll enjoy wafers that are cut to accommodate the exact shape and size of your stoma. This helps provide accurate sizing and a proper fit, which can increase wear time and reduce the risk of leaks or other skin irritation.

Keep Track of Pouch Changes

It’s also important to keep track of your ostomy pouch changes. Although you might think you can retain it in your head, life tends to get pretty busy. This can cause us to forget or be unsure of our schedules. The easiest way to remember when you last changed your pouch is to simply write the date on your new pouch as you’re putting it on. All you need to do is grab a permanent marker and write it on either side. This small detail can make a world of difference for your ostomy management, so it’s definitely worth the added effort.

Set Phone Alarms

Another option to help you with your ostomy pouching schedule is to set alarms on your phone. This can be especially helpful during the first few months as an ostomate, where you’re still getting used to living with a pouch. When the alarm goes off, simply head to the bathroom to check your pouch. If it seems like it’s getting full, change it. If not, set another alarm and continue on with your day or night.

Don’t Ignore Any Signs of Discomfort

Finally, signs of discomfort are signs of an issue. If you start to feel any pressure, pulling, or even pain, it could be due to a small leak or irritation caused by the ostomy product itself. If you can address the discomfort immediately, do so. Otherwise, it’s best to schedule some time with your ostomy nurse to determine what’s going on and make changes as necessary. Ostomies are meant to help you; they should never cause you pain.

To help you manage daily life and get the most out of your pouch changes, always be prepared with an adequate amount of high-quality ostomy supplies from Byram Healthcare. Byram Healthcare is committed to doing our part to improve the lives of those living with ostomies through convenient product delivery and a diverse product catalog. We’re here to make sure you have the necessary supplies to change your pouch, regardless of where you are.