Newer ostomates in particular may not be aware of what’s out there in terms of undies and support wear. I was never told about hernias or the need for support wear, only that I could order some pretty pants or a swimsuit from one website they recommended if I wanted to.
Most ostomates in the UK can actually order up to 6 pairs of underwear and 3 support garments a year on an NHS Prescription. However, check with your stoma nurse and regional NHS provider as budget cuts mean some CCGs are restricting prescriptions for such items. Alternatively, all items can be purchased (paid-for items can also include things like swimsuits and pouch covers if you’re in the mood for some shopping and your budget can afford it).
Why Would I Need Them?
Support undies, belts and bands can be useful for anyone with a stoma. They can help prevent a hernia and so can be used for various activities. Gardening, walking, gym, decluttering your garage, rearranging furniture, tennis, hiking, running, lifting your little one, carrying the shopping from the car, vacuuming, doing the laundry… Whether it’s an actual sport or a more routine daily activity, your muscles are often being used, even when you don’t realise it. If you have a hernia, they can give added support as required. And they’re also good for giving a more contoured outline, making a bag less noticeable underneath your clothes.
Where Can I Get Them?
There are a few sites that offer clothing and support wear. Some of these include NHS prescribed products (marked with *), so it’s worth shopping around to see what takes your fancy.
You can check out my reviews for pants and SuportX here.
Vanilla Blush * http://www.vblush.com/
Suportx * http://www.suportx.co.uk/
Charter * https://www.charter.co.uk/ Your delivery service may have support bands (such as Pelican) listed in their product catalogue for ordering.
Comfizz * http://www.comfizz.com/
Pelican * http://www.pelicanhealthcare.co.uk/
Types of Undies & Support Wear
The internet is great for window shopping and there’s a pretty good choice online for men and women when it comes to stoma wear. It was a bit baffling for me at first because I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for.
Undies – Pants are available in different shapes and sizes, with legs or without, higher waistband or regular, with a pocket or without, and a select few colours. There are also cami style tops designed to help give a little support down your front and keep the bag flat against you. Both pants and tops can give you a little more comfort and confidence, securing the bag in place and reducing the outline and bulk a little if you want to wear something more fitting. Hernia support pants can be great for not only supporting the areas that need it, but contouring the area a little and reducing the appearance of a hernia if you already have one. These products are designed to be comfortable yet practical and they don’t stop stoma flow. That was something I was rather unsure of with both pants & belts, but have been assured (and know from experience now) that these items don’t restrict your stoma, they are designed in a way so as to allow it to work as normal.
Support Bands & Belts – These aren’t just for those wanting to enter a weight lifting contest, or those who already have a hernia. Hernia prevention is always better than cure and support wear is great for a range of activities to give a. support of muscles and your stoma where it’s needed b. added comfort c. a more contoured outline underneath clothes. Each product will have a different level of support, from low/general support to more hardcore support. Most sites will give an idea of what the band is good for on the product page.
There is usually a choice between a stretchy band that you wriggle in to, or a band that you can velcro across. It’s personal preference and also depends a little on your shape and size. For instance, the narrowest velcro belt I tried on was still an awful fit for me, coming right under my rib cage and lying just over my hip bone (I’m 5’3″ on a good day so perhaps my abdomen is quite short in length too!); it wasn’t actually flush against my middle and it was very bulky and uncomfortable. The stretchy belt, however, fitted perfectly, snug around my waist and more manageable. I wouldn’t have been able to guess this at first because I thought I would want and need a velcro one, hence a fitting where you can test products is a very good idea.
If you are ordering an NHS product on prescription, most sites require you to place your order and provide your GP details. They will then contact your GP and obtain the prescription on your behalf, and send the product(s) out to you when ready. The prescription item won’t (or hasn’t from the sites I’ve used) incur any P&P charge. If you are paying for the item, it works much the same as a normal online purchase and the delivery may be a little quicker as you’re not waiting on the prescription.
It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that you can’t return an item if it doesn’t fit. Make sure to check out the size guide on the website, look at what other people say about the fit, and contact customer services if you have any questions before ordering.
Some sites will offer a fitting service. This can be so handy if you’re ordering a support belt, especially for the first time. SuportX is one. I found the fitting service to be brilliant – I left my details on the website and received an email asking me to make an appointment. A couple of weeks later, someone visited me and took a few measurements, then went through the different belts and bands available for me to try on. It felt quite relaxed doing it in my own living room, though a little odd at first. I actually tried keeping my jeans on initially and wiggling in to a band that then got stuck around my thighs and took 5 minutes to untwist, so I’d recommend wearing leggings or just taking your trousers off – they’re not going to judge the pants you’re wearing that day so don’t worry about it like I did with my Wonder Woman knickers! You can ensure a better fit this way and they will custom make the band to your requirements.
Delivery can vary on the type of product ordered (ie. whether it’s straight from a catalogue of items or custom made for size) and how long it takes to obtain the prescription if one is used. I’ve had pants delivered from Comfizz in just over a week. The support band from SuportX took nearly 5 weeks, but was well worth the wait.
Remember – These sites all have customer service advisors there to help with any and all questions. If you’re not sure about something, drop them a message or give them a call. Likewise, if you’re not sure what type of support you may need, speak with your stoma team as they are there to help with these sorts of questions. x