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Don't Let Your Ostomy

    Slow You Down

Many questions may run through your mind as you plan your first ventures outside of your home. Can you go back to work after a colostomy? Can you ride your bike if you have an ileostomy? Rest assured! You can do many of the same activities you enjoyed before your ostomy surgery.

Adapting to Life After Surgery


You can tell—or not tell—about your ostomy

It's up to you to decide who to tell about your ostomy surgery. It may make sense to tell the people closest to you. These people may be worried about your recovery, and explaining your ostomy may ease their fears. Talking with loved ones is also a healthy way to cope with your emotions.

     Acquaintances may be curious about why you've been away from work or know that you were in the hospital and ask about your illness. Think ahead about what to say when questions arise. You could say you've had abdominal surgery or use another basic description without going into details if you're uncomfortable discussing your ostomy with people you don't know well.

     Other people will need to know about your ostomy for practical purposes. If you don't have a desk or locker at work to store extra ostomy supplies, for instance, you might need to reveal some details of your ostomy to someone at work so that such arrangements can be made.

Some people keep their ostomy surgery private, and others prefer to tell anyone who asks. Who you tell is up to you, but you may find you're more willing to discuss the details as you become more comfortable caring for your ostomy.


You can participate in sports if you have an ostomy.

Unless your favorite hobby is a contact sport with lots of potential for injury, you'll be free to go back to the activities you enjoy after you heal from ostomy surgery. The main danger is injury to the opening where waste or urine leaves your body (stoma), which means rough sports may be out.

     If you want to continue these pursuits, ask your doctor or ostomy nurse about special products you can use and precautions you can take to protect your stoma during these activities.

     Check with your doctor before you begin lifting weights after your surgery. You may need to wait for your surgical incision to heal before lifting weights, to reduce your risk of complications. Once you're fully healed, your doctor or an ostomy nurse might recommend a device to support your abdomen when lifting weights.

     If you're nervous that running, swimming or other athletic activity will loosen your ostomy bag and cause a leak, use a special belt or binder to hold your ostomy bag in place. Check with your local medical supply store or look online for specialty products for active people with ostomies.

You can go back to work if you have an ostomy.

You'll need time after your surgery to heal and recover, but you can eventually go back to work. You might choose to ease back into work or talk with your employer about a limited schedule until you feel more confident with your ostomy.

     If your line of work involves manual labor or lots of lifting, your doctor may recommend ways to protect your stoma on the job.

Consider going back to work once you're feeling well. If you're nervous about caring for your ostomy at work, talk to your doctor or an ostomy nurse.

     Don't let worrying get the best of you. Returning to work is a good way to transition back to a normal routine, and working again can make you feel good about yourself.


You can hide your ostomy

To you, the ostomy bag attached to you is very obvious. When you look in the mirror, you notice the bag under your clothes. You might think every gurgle and noise coming from your stoma is loud and heard by everyone in the room.

     Most people won't notice your ostomy unless you tell them about it. As you get used to your ostomy, you'll figure out how to keep the bag concealed and the noises to a minimum. Here are some ideas to get you started:


  • Empty your ostomy bag when it gets to be one-third full. That way it won't bulge under your clothes.

  • Work with your ostomy nurse to find the ostomy pouching system that works best for you.

  • If you're worried about the odor when emptying your ostomy bag, ask your ostomy nurse or visit your medical supply store for pouch deodorants or air sprays to minimize odor.


Ask a close friend or loved one whose opinion you trust whether your ostomy bag is visible under your clothes or if the sounds your ostomy makes are as loud as you think they are. Everyone's body makes noises and produces odors from time to time. While it can be embarrassing, don't let a fear of what could go wrong keep you from going about your day.


You can wear whatever you want if you have an ostomy

No clothing is off-limits if you have an ostomy. However, your individual body contour and your stoma's location may make some clothes less comfortable. For instance, tight waistbands or belts might feel restrictive over your stoma. Be open to experimenting with different styles of clothes.

     But don't let your ostomy keep you from wearing tight-fitting clothes or even your bathing suit. Look into ostomy swimsuits and trunks, which can be found through specialty retailers.


You can go wherever you want if you have an ostomy

It will take some pre-trip planning, but having an ostomy shouldn't prevent you from traveling. If you'll be traveling by airplane, bring extra ostomy supplies and pack them in both your carry-on and checked bags.

     Consider carrying a statement from your doctor about your ostomy. This note might explain why you have an ostomy and ask airport security screeners to respect your privacy during searches.


You can have intimate relationships if you have an ostomy

You'll need time to recover after surgery. And depending on what type of ostomy surgery you have, you may experience some temporary sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. But sexual intimacy can continue after you have an ostomy.

     If you feel less attractive with your ostomy, take your return to intimacy slowly. Maybe you aren't ready to have sex right away. Discuss this with your partner. Suggest starting with touching and kissing. Your partner can help make you feel more comfortable and reassure you that you are just as attractive with an ostomy.

     Take steps before intimacy to feel more confident. Empty and clean your ostomy pouch. Check the seal to make sure it's tight. Use an opaque pouch or try a pouch cover.

     People with ostomies who are dating often worry about when to tell new companions about their ostomies. That's up to you. Some people feel more comfortable getting it out in the open right away, while others want to get to know and trust a potential partner first. Do what feels right for you. Know that rejection is possible, and give a new partner time to consider what an ostomy means to your relationship. Answer questions openly and honestly.


© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).





Frequently Asked Questions


How can I make by stoma less noticeable?

Securi-T USA products offer the highest level of flexibility and comfort with discreet products to fit your body and lifestyle.  There are many different products that will help hide your stoma.


How long can I wear my pouch?

Every person is different in terms of wear time, but generally you can

expect 3-5 days wear time. Emptying the pouch will vary from 4-6 times a day for ileostomates and urostomates, to 3-5 times for colostomates.


Why am I getting less wear time?

There are many things that could affect the wear time of your appliance: gaining weight, losing weight, how the skin is washed, activity, weather, perspiration, etc. If you find that you are having issues, please contact your supplier or Securi-T USA for guidance.


When should I seek medical help?

  • Call the doctor if you have any of the following symptoms: Purple, black, or white stoma

  • Severe cramps lasting more than 6 hours

  • Severe watery discharge from the stoma lasting more than 6 hours

  • No output from the colostomy for 3 days

  • Excessive bleeding from your stoma

  • Swelling of your stoma to more than 1/2-inch larger than usual

  • Pulling inward of your stoma below skin level

  • Severe skin irritation or deep ulcers

  • Bulging or other changes in your abdomen


Call your ostomy/enterostomal therapy nurse regarding:

  • Frequent leaking of your pouching system

  • Change in size or appearance of your stoma, causing discomfort or problems with your pouch

  • Skin rash or rawness

  • Weight gain or loss that causes problems with your pouch.

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