How to Choose the Best Ostomy Bag

January 20,2020 |

An ostomy is a hole made by a surgeon that allows stool, urine, or both, to leave your body through your abdomen.2 The reason people need an ostomy varies, but usually occurs as a result from a malfunctioning urinary or digestive system.2 If your doctor communicates that you need an ostomy, it’s usually to save your life. Sometimes, ostomy surgeries are temporary and can be reversed, other times they are permanent solutions.

After your ostomy is performed, you will be left with a stoma. A stoma is the piece of your ureter or small or large bowel that sticks through your skin out of an opening and needs to be connected to an external pouch for drainage.2

If you need to get an ostomy and are left with a stoma, for whatever medical reason indicated by your doctor, you’re going to need to find an ostomy bag. For some people, this news can be difficult to deal with. It will change the way you move throughout your day and will require some essential adaptations. However, there are a number of different sizes, shapes, and functionality features for ostomy bags that range in prices and can help you live an otherwise normal life. Ostomy bags aren’t made as one size fits all accessories. There are vast selections that can make choosing the right ostomy bag overwhelming, but there are a few ways to make the selection process easier. In this article, we’ll explore how to choose an ostomy bag that works well for your lifestyle and personal preferences.

What is an Ostomy Bag?

After an ostomy, you will need an ostomy bag to collect the waste that’s expelled from your digestive or urinary system.1 This connects to your stoma so that it’s directly emptied without any added effort. Ostomy bags are worn outside the body, but are easily concealed underneath clothes.1 If you’ve had an ostomy, wearing an ostomy bag is important to avoid any leakage from urine, stool, or gas.1

Different Types of Ostomy Bags

At the most basic level, there are three primary types of surgeries that require ostomy bags. Each type depends on the type of ostomy procedure performed. Once you have an idea of which bag you’ll need, you can choose one based on further specifications discussed below.


If you need to get a colostomy, a part of your large redirected out into a stoma, typically on the lower left side of your abdomen.1 More often than not, this results in consistently firm, formed stool output and will need to be replaced or emptied a few times every day.1 Sometimes, a temporary colostomy is done to help aid in healing after surgery or an injury, other times a colostomy is permanent.1  


An ileostomy is done when your small intestine is redirected through a stoma, typically on the right side of your abdomen.1 This results in a need to discard output frequently, which will affect your preferences for types of bags.1


A urostomy is done when your small intestines are redirected to divert urine from the ureters through the stoma.1 This is done when the bladder is removed or needs to be bypassed for healing. A urostomy creates a stoma that’s usually located on the right side of the abdomen.1

Choosing the Right Ostomy Bag

Every person is different, which means that preferences for the types of ostomy bags will vary. Because of this, there are a number of different features and options for your ostomy bag. Choosing the right one will help you stay comfortable and maintain your lifestyle needs. Different ostomy bags work well for different activities, so if you live in active lifestyle it may be beneficial to get numerous types of ostomy bags to use in each corresponding setting.

The main distinction between the different options for ostomy bags, after determining which type you will need, is whether or not it is a one-piece or two-piece variation.1 One-piece ostomy bags include a skin barrier and a pouch while two-piece ostomy bags keep the skin barrier and pouch separate.1 Once you determine whether or not you’ll want a one-piece or a two-piece ostomy bag, you can look at other options.

One-Piece Ostomy Bags

A one-piece ostomy bag has a conjoined bag and skin barrier, making it necessary to change the entire system with each replacement.1 One-piece bags are good for people wanting a more discreet ostomy bag, but may lead to more discomfort and irritation than a two-piece bag. This is a good option if you’re active or play sports.1

Two-Piece Ostomy Bags

Two-piece ostomy bags are generally considered more comfortable and tend to cause less irritation. The skin barrier can be kept in place for 2-4 days without needing to be changed out and the bag can be changed without removing the skin barrier.1 Because the parts are separate, it’s easy to change out the bag quickly.

Drainable Ostomy Bags

A drainable ostomy bag allows you to empty the contents of your pouch and then reuse it.4 This is a good option for people who are busy and need more accessibility with their ostomy bag.

Close-End Ostomy Bags

Close-end ostomy bags are made for single use and need to be discarded afterwards.4 Once the pouch has been filled, the entire bag needs to be properly discarded to avoid leakage or infection. Depending on your output and everyday needs, a close-end ostomy bag may be the best option for you.

Pre-Cut Ostomy Bags

A pre-cut ostomy bag has an opening that is pre-cut and not measured to your specific stoma. This is fine if you know the size of your stoma and it doesn’t change, but can be risky for leaks.

Cut-to-Fit Ostomy Bags

A cut-to-fit ostomy bag is a safer option to avoid leakage. Since the skin barrier is specifically measured and cut to your stoma size and shape, you’ll avoid leaks and have a more comfortably fitting bag. This will also reduce external irritation.

Flat Ostomy Bags

Most ostomy bags are flat and have an adhesive backing to keep the ostomy bag in a fixed position.4 This creates a more discreet bag fitting since the bag is flush with your body.

Convex Ostomy Bags

Some people prefer convex bags, which tends to protrude out more. Convex ostomy bags help to accommodate flush stomas, creases, telescoping stomas, and better adapts to skin wrinkles, and surgical scars.4

Pediatric Ostomy Bags

Pediatric ostomy bags are smaller and made for infants or children. However, they can also be used for adults who prefer the discreetness of a smaller pouch.1 If this is the case, they will need be emptied more frequently to avoid overflow.

Finding the perfect ostomy bag might take a little trial and error. Don’t expect to order something and have it work perfectly the first time around. You will need to test the product to make sure that it’s comfortable and works for your lifestyle. Prior to using your ostomy products on or around your ostomy, test it on a different part of your skin.3 This allows you to take notice if you have any signs of allergic reactions to avoid having one on your ostomy. Many manufacturers will provide samples if you ask, so don’t be afraid to do so. Talk to your doctor and your ostomy nurse about additional accessories and remember to be patient during this time. Choosing the right ostomy bag is tedious, but will help you stay comfortable and manage your ostomy with ease. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask your doctor or ostomy nurse.  

Living with an Ostomy

Most people who receive an ostomy surgery go through a lot of emotional turmoil during the adjustment period. It can be challenging, as an ostomy will result in a number of lifestyle changes. Remember, an ostomy is a lifesaving procedure and you can still live a healthy, and otherwise normal life with an ostomy bag. The biggest obstacle that you’ll need to overcome is body image and any associated self-esteem concerns. That’s why it’s crucial to find a support network and regularly meet with them.

Another important aspect to getting an ostomy is self-care for your stoma, regular cleaning, and expelling waste. If you have any questions what so ever, talk to you doctor and make sure you’re comfortable with everything you need to do. This will include regularly monitoring and measuring your stoma to ensure that changes are made to your bag when needed.

Living with an ostomy means that you’re going to need a few additional supplies outside of an ostomy bag. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems. Check out our selection today!