It’s totally normal to wonder what life will be like for you after ostomy surgery. The first few weeks will be a period of adjustment, but armed with the right information, you can be ready for whatever comes next.
Here are 5 things to consider as you transition into life as a new ostomate.
1. Get to Know Your Stoma
During the surgery, your surgeon will create a stoma to redirect the flow of your body’s waste (urine due to a urostomy or stool due to a colostomy or ileostomy). The stoma is typically positioned on your abdomen region. Your doctor will let you know where you can expect it to be, depending on the type of surgery you have.
After the surgery, the stoma should be slightly moist and appear pink or red. This is completely normal.
Any soreness, swelling, or slight bleeding should go away with time. However, if you’re dealing with excessive pain or bleeding or if your stoma changes colors, this should be addressed with your doctor as soon as possible.
2. Practice Proper Skincare
Ideally, the skin surrounding your stoma should look like it did before your surgery, although it may be slightly irritated at first as your body adjusts to wearing your ostomy appliances.
Your doctor or a WOCN (Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse) will be the best resource for instructing you how to change your pouching system and giving you personalized tips for skincare, bathing, safe removal of any hair on the skin surrounding your stoma, and they will also be able to assess your needs based on any allergies you may have as well as your current skin condition.
Typically, you will want to just make sure that the area of skin around your stoma is clean and dry. You can clean your skin with warm water and a soft, clean washcloth each time you change your appliance. When using soap, stick with a brand that is mild and does not contain any oil, deodorant, or perfume, as this can cause skin irritation or keep your ostomy system from properly adhering to your skin.
3. Get the Right Fit
After your surgery, your stoma will probably be swollen, but the swelling should go down over time. You will most likely have to change sizes of ostomy wafers (also known as skin barriers or flanges) or other ostomy appliances eventually.
You may notice this if you start to see leakage or find that your current sizes are no longer fitting snugly. Leakage can cause skin irritation and feel embarrassing, but you don’t have to live with it.
We recommend that you speak with your doctor or a WOCN (Wound, Ostomy, & Continence Nurse) who can help you address any medical concerns. Next, talk to your ostomy supply company.
Our Ostomy Specialists will be glad to offer you options to measure your stoma, and with the help of your prescribing healthcare provider, we can get you the right size of wafers, the type of ostomy pouches that work best for your needs, and additional accessories.
4. Evaluate Your Diet
After you’re healed up, you probably won’t need to worry about following a new diet, although this will depend on your medical condition and any food allergies you may have. For the most part, you should be able to return to eating the food you love.
If you have an ileostomy or a colostomy, your doctor might recommend a reduction of fiber intake as you recover in the weeks following your surgery. There may be some foods you might want to avoid based on your condition.
If you have a urostomy, your doctor may advise you to avoid too many caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate your body, or they may discuss the proper amounts of fluid/water to have daily.
Your doctor may also prescribe medication or recommend daily multi-vitamins to help your body heal and get the proper balance of nutrients to supplement your diet.
5. Start Living Your Best Life
It’s completely okay to go through feelings of concern, self-consciousness, and worry. You may worry that you’re the only person with an ostomy or that people might be able to tell that you’re wearing a pouch.
We want you to know you are not the only person with an ostomy. There are millions of other happy, healthy ostomates across the globe.
Although there is nothing shameful about having an ostomy, it’s okay to want to keep it a secret. There are options to keep your ostomy appliance discreet, including low-profile pouches. There are even specialized swimsuits, underwear, and wraps for everyday wear available at www.ostomysecrets.com. These may help you feel more confident both in public and at home.
Once your doctor has given approval, you should be able to live just as you did before, including exercising, socializing, and even being intimate with your partner. Your health and overall well-being will likely improve as you heal from your surgery, and you may even feel like trying out new hobbies. There are even marathon runners with ostomies!
At 180 Medical, we understand that navigating all of the many ostomy product choices as well as all the ins and outs of your new ostomy routine might feel overwhelming in the beginning. Our Ostomy Specialists are here to help.
If you have any questions about ostomy supplies, feel free to reach out to us today!