As you move through the first few post-surgery months, some things may worry you as you adjust to life with a stoma. These concerns are understandable and very normal.
Following are answers to a few common questions. If you have additional concerns, we encourage you to seek guidance from your doctor or ostomy nurse.
Will I be able to participate in my favorite sports and activities?
You can—and should—stay active. And if you didn’t exercise before your surgery, this is a great time to start. With your healthcare professional's permission, you can participate in most sports and activities, with the exception of contact sports (such as boxing, wrestling and football) because of possible injury to the stoma.
Will my pouch leak?
The durable film used to make ostomy pouches is designed to minimize leaks. That said, routinely changing your pouch and ensuring it is properly and securely attached to your body (in the case of a one-piece system) or the skin barrier (in the case of a two-piece system) will reduce your chance of experiencing a leak.
Will my pouch have an embarrassing odour?
The materials used to manufacture an ostomy pouch are designed to block odour. However, there are additional precautions you can take to further reduce the risk of odour. Selecting a pouch with a charcoal filter will help release deodorized gas from the pouch. You can manage your diet to minimize the intake of foods that cause odour or gas. And you may consider using a deodorizing agent in your pouch.
It is also important to remember that all bodies make embarrassing noises and odours from time to time. Don't let a fear of what could go wrong keep you from going about your day.
Will I still be able to have sexual relations?
Having an ostomy doesn't mean that intimacy has to come to an end. With open communication and trust, meaningful and fulfilling intimate encounters are possible.
It is normal to feel sensitive about the change to your body. Share your feelings with your spouse or loved one, and respond to his or her concerns as well. Let your partner know that sexual relations will not hurt your stoma. With time, understanding and a positive attitude, you can enjoy a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. Consult our tips on intimacy.
What should I tell my friends and work colleagues about my stoma?
It is always reassuring to have friends around you that you can rely on—especially when you need support during recovery. However, many people living with stomas find it awkward telling friends, family and colleagues about their condition.
Obviously, it is up to you who you tell about your ostomy. And you don't have to disclose your condition to anyone if it makes you feel uncomfortable—in fact, unless you tell someone, they will never know you have stoma. But we encourage you to keep open communication between you and your closest loved ones. Support from those you trust will not only help you, it will also help them as you adjust to your new life.
Will I have to buy a new wardrobe?
Since your ostomy pouch is designed to lie flat against your body, it will not be noticeable under most clothing. Therefore, there is no need for a whole new wardrobe. You do not even need special underwear—pouches can be worn either inside or outside of regular underwear.
A few clothing considerations may make you feel more comfortable:
- If your stoma is at or near your waistline, try to avoid pressure from tight-waisted pants or belts.
- If you want to wear pantyhose or tights, make sure they are soft and stretchy (i.e. you may want to avoid “control top” hosiery and shapewear).
- Many men who wear athletic supporters find it helpful to wear them one size larger.
- When it comes to swimwear, anything goes. However, some women may feel more comfortable in a one-piece swimsuit, while men may prefer boxer-style swim shorts.