Facts about living with an ostomy

Can you still go swimming with an ostomy? How about exercising? Is leakage just a natural part of having a colostomy or ileostomy? There are a lot of questions that you may have about living with an ostomy. 

Useful information before and after your surgery

  • Good to know information before your stoma surgery including the different types of stomas and why some are only temporary.
  • Why you should not worry about others knowing that you have a stoma.
  • How to take care of your stoma to avoid leakage and skin issues.
  • Lifestyle advice around living with an ostomy; dietary tips, how to go swimming or live an active life, what to wear and whether you can get pregnant. 

Before your ostomy surgery

woman child ostomy Are there different types of ostomies? Many people think that if you have a stoma, you've had a colostomy. This is not necessarily correct. What is a colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy?
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What is a colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy?

There are three main types of ostomy: Colostomy, Ileostomy and Urostomy and they are quite different.

  • A colostomy is a stoma in the large intestine and the output is quite firm and has a limited volume. People with a colostomy typically use closed bags that cannot be drained.
  • An Ileostomy is a stoma in the small intestine and the output volume is likely quite high and liquid with lumps. People with an ileostomy typically use bags that can be drained. 
  • Urostomies are constructed to drain urine when there is a malfunction of the urinary tract. As the output is urine, people with a urostomy use bags with a tap used for drainage.

See our products available for each type of stoma here.

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Will others know that you have a stoma?

sensura mio filter Will people be able to smell my stoma? The fear of odour from the ostomy bag is a natural concern to the majority of people who have a stoma. However, most ostomy bags prevent any odour from escaping. How to avoid smell from the bag
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How to avoid smell from the stoma

Odour, or the fear of odour from the ostomy bag is a natural concern to the majority of people who have a stoma. The reality is though that most ostomy bags are made from materials that prevent any odour from escaping, and most have a filter that removes the odour from intestinal gas. However, if the bag is not changed often enough, the filter can block with faeces, which may lead to a smell. 

If you use a drainable bag and you do not clean the outlet properly after drainage, odour can easily escape. To avoid this, make sure you take care to clean the outlet properly after each drainage.

See our SenSura® Mio range here.

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woman with a stoma in a suit Will people be able to see my ostomy bag? You may feel that the bag is visible through your clothing, although this is not usually the case. Read more about visibility of the ostomy bag

You may feel that your ostomy bag is visible through your clothing, although this is not usually the case. This perception is often a result of heightened awareness of the bag and the fact that you view it from above where it may seem more prominent. Trousers with pleats in the waistband hide the stoma bag better than trousers with a flat front. The bag is less visible if it is worn inside the underpants, which should ideally be of an elastic material like Lycra. 

If wearing bathers, a swimsuit, or bikini it may be better to use a small bag, such as a minicap, which takes up as little space as possible. 

The SenSura® Mio is constructed with an all-textile material that makes it seem less like a medical appliance and more like a clothing item or accessory. The specially chosen neutral grey colour is designed to stay unnoticed under all clothing colours. 

View our SenSura® Mio products here.

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Taking care of your stoma

consumer with ostomy walking dog Do I need to put up with sore skin? Skin disorders are unfortunately common among people with a stoma but this does not mean that they should be accepted. Taking care of your skin
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Taking care of your skin

References

*OstomySkinStudy, Per Herlufsen et al, British Journal of Nursing,2006, Vol 15, No16, Pp854-862

Skin disorders are unfortunately common among people with a stoma but this does not mean that they should be accepted.

A British study* has shown that as many as 45% of people with an ostomy suffered from skin disorders around the stoma. 62% of these people did not even consider it a skin disorder, but accepted it as part of having a stoma. Often skin disorders are caused by output from the stoma leaking under the adhesive. By preventing such leakage, skin disorders can likely be solved and even avoided. Always make sure the hole in the adhesive is not bigger or smaller than the stoma at skin level. Another way to avoid skin disorders is to ensure you remove the adhesive correctly and to use supporting products for skin care if needed.

Try BodyCheck here - a tool to understand your body profile. This is the first step towards a better fit.

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sensura mio convex Is leakage always a part of having a stoma? Preventing leakage is a matter of using the most appropriate appliance (and accessories) for your individual body profile, using it correctly and removing it in due time. Help reduce leakage
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Preventing leakage

It is important to understand that you don't need to accept leakage from your ostomy appliance. Reducing leakage is a matter of using the most appropriate appliance for your individual body profile, using it correctly and removing it in due time. Our online tool BodyCheck can help you identify the most appropriate ostomy appliance for your individual body profile. Finally, there are supporting products that can help to ensure a tight seal. Make it part of your routine to have a look at your skin and the backside of the adhesive each time you change your baseplate. Are there any signs of leakage? If so you may be using the wrong appliance.

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Living with an ostomy 

woman food ostomy Do I need to change my diet after ostomy surgery? It is a common misunderstanding that ostomates should be very cautious about what they eat. The truth is you can still eat and drink whatever you want unless advised otherwise. Dietary advice for people with an ostomy
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Dietary advice for people with an ostomy

People who have a stoma can eat and drink whatever they want unless the surgeon or stoma care nurse advises otherwise. As with anyone else, certain foods can affect the production of gas and bad smells or change the consistency of your faeces.

Below are a some specific tips depending on your stoma type.

  • Colostomy: You should drink at least 2 litres of liquid every day to avoid constipation. 
  • Ileostomy: You will lose 2–3 times more water and salt through waste than normal. You should therefore add some salt to foods and possibly drink soda water. You should try to drink at least 2 litres of liquid every day. It is important that you chew food thoroughly before swallowing because stoma blockage is sometimes the result of indigestible and insufficiently chewed food. A single unpleasant experience with a given food doesn't necessarily mean you should avoid it altogether. If you cook a food in a different way, it may become more tolerable.
  • Urostomy: You will produce more urine than before the urostomy. As a result, you must drink more than others to maintain the fluid balance. A daily fluid intake of 2–3 litres is recommended and will also help prevent the development of urinary tract infections. Some feel that it helps to drink two glasses of cranberry juice every day if you are experiencing issues with urinary tract infections however this has not been scientifically proven.

Read more about what to eat and drink here.

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Can I go swimming with a stoma? Can I go swimming with a stoma? You should not avoid swimming just because you have a stoma - there are many ways you can prepare for a swim. How to prepare before going swimming
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How to prepare before going swimming?

Swimming

Having a stoma should not deter you from swimming. Always make sure that the baseplate is sticking properly before going for a swim – give it some time after applying. Be aware that water can affect the adhesion, so make sure to change your product more frequently if you are swimming.

For some people it can be helpful to use accessories when going swimming – using a skin barrier that helps the adhesive stick better can be very helpful. Using a belt can also be very good for some people, and if you are worried about the edges of the plate not sticking properly elastic tape can be a good solution.

It is always a good idea to talk to your stoma nurse if you have any questions. You are also welcome to contact one of our call specialists on 1800 653 317. 

What swimwear should I use?

The most important thing is that you wear something that makes you feel good. Some people don't mind showing their bag when going to the beach or pool, whereas some prefer to cover it up. Do what makes you feel best.

When buying your swimwear the best piece of advice we can give you is to try before you buy. Unfortunately, buying specialty swimwear is no guarantee of a good fit. On the other hand, you might be able to find regular swimwear that fits your needs perfectly. For example, you might want to look at a one-piece bathing suit with detailing or patterns across the stomach area to cover up the pouch.

On the beach, a sarong or wrap can be a great way to gracefully cover up without feeling out of place.

And if you would like to wear a bikini – you should do so.

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fitness gym What activities can I do once I've recovered from surgery? Many think they can no longer exercise or do physical activity with an ostomy. There are many kinds of exercise that are still possible - find one that suits you. Exercising with an ostomy
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Exercising with an ostomy

Exercising is healthy and there are few physical limitations to participating in leisure activities after having a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy.

As soon as you recover from surgery, you can return to most of the activities you enjoyed before, such as sports, gardening, etc. However, we recommend that you consult your physician or stoma therapy nurse before starting.

If necessary, the stoma can be protected with a special protective accessory known as a StomaGARD, which is a special rigid cap worn over the stoma.

  • Cycling, ball games, golf and similar sports usually do not cause problems, but you should avoid high-impact contact sports like boxing for practical reasons. 
  • Weight-lifting should also be avoided since it might increase the risk of developing a sliding hernia. 
  • If you are engaged in more strenuous sport and work up a sweat, the adhesive will be challenged. Therefore it is a good idea to change the adhesive before participating in sport to make sure it stays firmly in place. 

The biggest challenge for most ostomates to participate in sport is psychological. Experience with leakage, or the fear of the bag leaking unfortunately causes some people to avoid any physical activity.

When participating in team sports, it is rare to be able to shower in private. For some people with a stoma, undressing in front of others and having the stoma visible can be hard to cope with. This may be noticed by team mates and lead to prying questions, but it should not limit your willingness to participate.

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man wearing white shirt Clothing with a colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy Your ostomy should not prevent you from wearing certain types of clothing - the most important thing is that you wear something that makes you feel good. Clothing tips for ostomates
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Tips for clothing

You should be able to dress as you did before your surgery. The most important thing is that the clothing does not prevent the output from the stoma moving unobstructed into the bag.

The stoma should be positioned so that it does not get in the way of the type of clothing you usually wear. In the majority of cases this will mean that it needs to be positioned below the waistline where it would otherwise be exposed to friction from your waistband or belt. Tight waistbands should be avoided over the stoma since they can press against the bag and cause it to leak or may even prevent the output from leaving the stoma. 

For men, it may be more practical to wear braces instead of a belt, however some may prefer to wear braces only when wearing a jacket or another item of clothing on top. 

There are companies that have designed clothes and particularly underwear for people with a stoma.

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pregnant ostomate Are you able to get pregnant after having an ostomy? Having an ostomy should not affect your fertility or your chances of having children. Pregnancy with an ostomy
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Pregnancy with an ostomy

The reason behind your stoma operation might influence your chances of getting pregnant, but having the stoma itself should not prevent you from carrying a pregnancy to term and having a normal delivery. However, in addition to regular obstetric examinations, women who have had or currently have an ostomy should also see a physician with ostomy expertise. 

As the belly grows, the stoma will typically grow and change shape and the bag may be increasingly difficult to change because it will be located on the underside of the belly. Many women in the later stages of pregnancy use a mirror when changing the bag.

Approximately 10% of pregnant women experience prolapse of the stoma in the third trimester, but few require surgery. When the abdominal wall is stretched, the hole through which the stoma protrudes may be widened. Because of the increased pressure caused by the child’s growth, 3% of women develop a stoma hernia during pregnancy. There is a 50% chance of the hernia disappearing after the child is born. If not, surgery will need to be performed after delivery. 

Delivery will usually proceed normally. 

Learn more about fertility and pregnancy here.

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