It may seem hard to imagine now, but eventually your ostomy won’t be the most important thing in your life. With time, you won’t think about it as much. You’ll probably find that you can live a normal life and do most of the things you used to do.

Feeling Confident

It’s normal to have questions, fears, and frustrations. Remember that these emotions may be similar to those you felt when you went through other big changes in your life. Give yourself time to adjust and work through them. It may take several months. And remember that there are many people who can help:

  • Your ostomy nurse has helped many people through this transition, and has a lot of experience with what you might need.
  • Ostomy support groups are a great place share your feelings and to ask questions as you adjust. 
  • If you have a spouse or partner, consider having them with you while the nurse is teaching you to care for your ostomy. It can be comforting to have someone beside you who can help. This may also make it easier to talk frankly about how you both feel about your ostomy. Being open about it can help you cope with your emotions.

As for other people in your life, you can decide who you want to tell about your ostomy. Those close to you may be concerned about your recovery, and explaining it to them may ease their fears. Others you may not want to tell right away.

If people ask why you were away from work or in the hospital, think ahead about how to answer their questions. You could just say that you’ve had abdominal surgery and not go into detail. Later, when you’re more comfortable caring for your ostomy, you may find you’re more willing to discuss the details.

Your Emergency Kit

One of the best ways you can feel confident about your ostomy is to be prepared whenever you’re away from home. Here's how:

  • Always carry with you an emergency kit that includes:
    • Small amounts of your normal supplies.
    • Small plastic bags that you can use to throw out used products and waste.
    • A copy of your supply list and prescriptions.
    • Names of some supply companies. Include at least one that will ship supplies to you if you’re far from home.
  • Keep a change of clothes in your car so you won’t have to go home to change if you have a leak that stains your clothing.
  • Don’t pack your supplies in luggage that could get lost.
  • Don’t expose your supplies to extreme hot or cold.

If you’re prepared, you can enjoy yourself and not let your stoma become the focus of your activities. Planning ahead generally pays off.

Adjusting Your Activities

In the first few weeks after your surgery, you may spend a lot of time planning activities around your ostomy care. With practice, though, you’ll get better at it and it won’t take so much time. If there are things you want to do that seem too difficult now, be sure to talk with your nurse or with other ostomy patients. They can often help. Here are ways to handle bathing, clothing, and intimacy:

  • Bathing. You can take a shower or bath with your pouch on or off. If you bathe with your pouch off, water will not flow into your stoma. Your stoma may leak a little, however. If you bathe with your pouch on, water will not affect the adhesive. Be sure to dry your pouch very well. Always be sure to rinse all the soap off well.

    When you’re traveling, however, you may need to be more careful. If you’re in a place where you are not comfortable drinking the water, don’t let the water get on your stoma when bathing. Wash your stoma with bottled water. If you have an ileostomy, you need to be especially prepared to have plenty of bottled water available for both drinking and washing.

  • Clothing. You don’t need special clothes. You can wear your usual clothing. If your belt or waistline is right on top of your stoma, you may need to increase your clothes by one size. Your ostomy nurse can help you decide if you should do this.

  • Intimacy. The patterns of your sex life don’t need to change because of your ostomy. Close body contact won’t hurt your stoma. There are, however, a few changes to consider. Here are a few tips:
    • If you have a new ostomy, ask your doctor when you can resume sexual activity.
    • Be sure to completely empty the pouch beforehand.
    • Be sure your pouch is sealed well.
    • You may want to use a pouch cover, closed‑end pouch, or pouch‑concealing undergarments. Supply companies sell these.
    • Talk to your partner about how you feel about intimacy with an ostomy. Be sure to listen to your partner’s feelings, too.
    • If you are a woman of child‑bearing age, use birth control until your doctor tells you that you’re healed enough to become pregnant.

Support Group:

  • Ostomy Support Group. Support from knowledgeable professionals, other ostomates, and families with similar experiences. This is a safe environment where you can ask questions and share your struggles.