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Introduction

With the right guidance and products, you should be able to do the things you’ve always done. In this section, you’ll find information that is intended to enable you to do just that. As well as product information, you’ll find helpful tips about intimacy, keeping your skin healthy and other aspects of living with an ostomy. You’ll also find useful links to various patient organizations.

Lifestyle information

Stoma after surgery What will the stoma look and feel like in the days after surgery? The days after stoma surgery can be challenging. You have a pouch attached to your abdomen and lots of new things to learn. Now’s the time to start getting to know your stoma. The days after stoma surgery
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How does it look after surgery?

When you wake up after the operation you’ll be wearing your first pouch. This will probably be a clear one so that your nurses can check on your new stoma easily. You may also have drips and drains attached to your body. This is perfectly normal and they will be removed with very little discomfort when appropriate.

Your stoma
Your stoma will be moist and pinkish-red in color and should protrude from your abdomen (though it's also commong for a stoma to remain flush with the skin surface). It may be quite swollen to begin with but will reduce in size over time – usually 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. Your stoma is a mucous membrane, just like the mucous membrane inside your mouth. There is no sensation in the stoma, so it is not at all painful to touch.  The stoma can bleed a little when being cleaned, especially in the beginning, but this is normal and should stop shortly afterwards.

Your stoma will begin to work shortly after your operation, usually within a few days. At first the output will be a watery liquid and may be strong-smelling as your bowel hasn’t been working for a while. Don’t worry, though, the consistency will thicken slightly and the smell will diminish as you resume a more balanced diet. Your doctor will advise you when you will be able to eat and drink as usual.

Initially, it’s also likely that a certain amount of noisy gas will come from the stoma – again this is perfectly normal. It is not uncommon to feel the use the restroom as you did before. This is normal and should reduce with time. If your anus is still present, there may be some mucus discharge from it.

Urostomy
If you have a urostomy, the stoma will begin to work immediately after your operation. The tubes -- called  "stents" -- placed in the urostomy will be left in place for seven to ten days. At first, your urine may be slightly red, but it will soon return to its usual color.

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Ostomate sitting with a relative Becoming confident with your ostomy Your ET nurse will explain how to take care of your stoma while you’re still in hospital. There’s a lot of information to take in, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification if you need it. Taking care of your stoma
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Becoming confident with your stoma

After your operation, your stoma care nurse will focus on helping you become confident in taking care of your stoma. It will help to have a close relative or spouse with you for this training.

Your nurse will help you with:

  • Learning how to care for your stoma, including what to watch out for
  • Re-ordering stoma pouches and accessories
  • Your rights regarding reimbursement and other economic support relating to your stoma
  • Other practical aspects of living with a stoma, e.g. foods and drink, your social life, travelling and your intimate relationships
  • Who to contact when you have questions
  • Ostomy association support groups in your area

Ask questions
There will be a lot of new information to take in at once; it may even feel a bit overwhelming. Take your time and ask all the questions you need, as many times as you need to. The more you ask and try things out, the better prepared you will be once you are back at home.


Before you leave the hospital, your enterostomal therapy nurse will likely make arrangements for follow-up care to make sure you feel confident caring for your ostomy.

Overcoming challenges
Once you are home, you may experience some challenges caring for your stoma. But remember that your ET nurse, as well as our Consumer Support Specialists, will be more than happy to help you with any issues.

 

To contact our Consumer Support Team, please call 1-866-293-6349 or email ca_conspec@coloplast.com

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Animated stoma and cleaning the skin around it Taking good care of your ostomy Keeping the skin around your stoma in good condition is the most important thing you can do to make life with a stoma secure, comfortable and worry-free. Healthy stoma
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Taking good care of your ostomy

It is important to keep your skin healthy. Contact between stoma output and skin causes skin irritation that can affect how well the barrier on the appliance sticks to your body. This creates a vicious circle of more leakage and even more irritated skin – which is important to avoid.

 

Keep your skin healthy
These six steps will help you keep your skin healthy: 

  1. Make sure your skin is clean and completely dry before applying the barrier
  2. Adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it exactly fits around your stoma
  3. Make sure that there is full contact between the barrier and your skin – use a bit of light pressure with your hand
  4. Change your appliance as soon as you feel any discomfort or itching
  5. Check the size of the stoma regularly, especially if you have a hernia
  6. Make sure to use the stoma appliance and accessories most appropriate for your body profile 

Use the right type of appliance
There are many different types of stoma appliance, so make sure you choose one that fits your body profile.

You can choose between different pouch sizes, application systems, colors, barrier types and many other features to suit your lifestyle. See the product finder for more details.

Use the right accessories
Coloplast also offers a wide range of accessories to make wearing a stoma pouch even more comfortable. These can help improve sealing, prevent skin problems and reduce smell.

You can see more detailed instructions on changing and draining a stoma pouch in our instructional videos.

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Different types of stomas Bodies are different – so are ostomy pouches It’s vital to always have an ostomy pouch that fits your body profile. Because every body is different, and because bodies change over time, finding the right product can be a challenge. Coloplast has several ways to help. Find the right product
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Bodies are different – so are ostomy pouches

After a stoma operation, your body profile may change for a number of reasons. These may include:

  • Weight gain or loss as you recover from the illness that caused the operation
  • Folds or scarring of the skin around your stoma
  • Hernia development connected to your stoma

If your body profile changes, it’s important that you make sure your stoma pouch still fits snugly.

Find the right product
A tight seal between the appliance and your skin is essential to good stoma care. If, for example, the area around your stoma changes from being regular to being more inwards, it may be time to switch to a convex appliance. You may also need to use additional accessories.

Our online self-assessment tool, BodyCheck, will help you figure out your current body profile and whether your body has changed significantly. It has suggestions for the right appliances and accessories for you.

The Brava online interactive accessory guide can help you to troubleshoot and solve typical stoma issues, including skin problems.

It’s always a good idea to consult with your enterostomal therapy nurse about how your pouch fits and which accessories might work for you.

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Man holding a question mark card Choose the right ostomy pouch There’s a lot of choice when it comes to ostomy pouches and it can be tricky to find the right product for you. Understanding your options is a good first step. Types of ostomy pouches
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Which kind of stoma appliance is right for me?

There are two main types of ostomy pouching systems:
 

 

One-piece systems consist of a pouch and barrier that are permanently attached to one another. When it needs to be changed, the whole appliance is removed, making this system suitable for frequent changes.

Two-piece systems involve a separate pouch and baseplate. In these systems, the pouch can be removed and changed without having to change the baseplate as well. There are two ways to connect the baseplate and pouch:
A mechanical coupling fixes the pouch to the barrier by snapping together. A locking system makes an audible 'click', confirming that is locked securely.

An adhesive coupling attaches the pouch to the barrier with a secure, flexible adhesive system.

Types of pouch
There are three main types according to which kind of ostomy you have:

  • Closed
  • Drainable
  • Urostomy

Closed pouches are generally used if you have a colostomy as the stool is usually more solid. When full, closed pouches are designed to be removed and replaced rather than being emptied and reused.

Drainable pouches are generally used if you have an ileostomy as the stool is usually more liquid to pasty. Sometimes, drainable pouches are used if you have a colostomy. Drainable pouches are easy to empty and do not have to be replaced as often as closed pouches.

Urostomy pouches are used if you have a urostomy to handle urine output. The pouch can be emptied when necessary and changed when required. A urostomy pouch can be connected to a collecting bag, to avoid having to change the pouch during the night.

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Engineers working in a lab Going back to work After surgery, it’s natural to want to get back to your everyday life as soon as you can. Going back to work may be part of that and, with a bit of planning, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be possible. Back to work after stoma surgery
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Going back to work

Thinking ahead
After surgery, it’s entirely possible for most people to go back to work. But when and how you do this really depends on how you feel, the type of work you do, and the stoma operation you had.

Talk to your employer and discuss your options as soon as possible. It may be possible to return to work part-time; this could be particularly helpful when you first go back as you may still feel tired and need time to get used to new routines.

Try it out
A few weeks before you go back, do a few trial runs where you dress and plan your day as if you were going to work. Think about your diet and when and how many times a day you may need to change or empty your pouch. This will help you to establish routines and plan your day accordingly. Most importantly, it will make you feel prepared.

Tips

  • Speak to your employer as soon as you can
  • If possible, build up your working hours gradually
  • Check the available changing facilities at work
  • Pack a small changing bag that you can take discreetly to the bathroom
  • Do trial runs before you start work, thinking about diet and clothing etc.
  • If your company provides healthcare insurance, check whether your condition affects the policy
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Ostomate sitting at a cafe visiting Who and what to tell about your ostomy Right after your surgery, one of the big questions may be: how and who do I tell about my ostomy? Who you tell and what you say is entirely up to you, but sharing your experiences can be a big help while you adjust to your new situation. Who to tell?
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Who and what to tell about your stoma

Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing is that you are comfortable with your decision. You may want to explain that you had major surgery because of a serious illness and now wear an ostomy pouch. This often leaves few other questions to be asked and people will see that you have a straightforward attitude towards your condition.

Family and friends
Being open and honest with the people close to you can help you get back to the life you had before your stoma surgery. In the beginning, it’s important for the people closest to you to understand that although you are back home, recovery from major surgery will take time.

Children
If you have young children or grandchildren you may feel that they are too young to understand. However, children tend to cope well if they are given the information in a simple way. Children will often pick up on secrets and hiding the truth from them can sometimes make them think a situation is more serious than it really is.

At work
Many people are concerned about telling work colleagues. And just like with family and friends, who you tell and what you tell them is entirely up to you. However it’s usually advisable to ensure that at least one person knows you have an ostomy. Then, in case there are any problems or issues, you will have someone to talk to. 

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Ostomate checking the bus stop Everyday life with an ostomy As you recover from the surgery, you’ll find yourself adjusting to life with an ostomy. Here are some tips and tricks – from sports, to diet, to socializing to intimacy – to help you start to really enjoy life again. Adjusting to life with an ostomy
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Everyday life with an ostomy

Sports
Exercise is good for everyone. What you can do now really just depends on what you did before. Swimming and walking are both great low-impact ways to keep fit and keep your energy levels up. Just remember that taking up sport again should be a gradual process. Talk to your ostomy nurse for advice on how to reduce the risk of getting a hernia.

Swimwear tips:

  • Try before you buy. There is specialist swimwear available, but it should not be necessary

For women

  • A one-piece swimsuit with detailing or patterns can help hide the ostomy pouch
  • Swimwear with a panel across the stomach can provide extra support.
  • Sarongs are great for covering up on the beach

For men

  • Layering a pair of lycra or stretch material swimming trunks underneath shorts will help hold your stoma pouch in place.
    Sunbathing tip:
  • Apply suntan lotion only after you’ve applied your pouch, as creams and oils may affect the prevent the barrier from sticking properly.

Diet

You don’t need to follow a special diet, but just like anyone else, some foods may cause gas or just not suit you.

If you think a particular food is causing problems, try cutting it out for a while – then reintroduce it into your diet later. If you do this three times with any suspect food, you’ll know if it’s really causing an issue.

Chewing your food really well before swallowing aids digestion. In addition, charcoal tablets from the pharmacy can help avoid gas, as can peppermint and fennel tea. Yogurt and yogurt drinks can help some people too.

Foods that can cause gas include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, beans (green and baked), onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, sweet corn and peas.

Drinks
As before your surgery, how much fluid you drink will affect the consistency of your output. It’s very individual, but many people find fizzy drinks and beer tend to cause gas. Water, squash and fruit juice are better than tea and coffee, which can be dehydrating. As for alcohol, you can still have a drink as long as it doesn’t interfere with any medication.

Have a chat with your doctor or ostomy nurse if you have any concerns. 


Constipation
If you are suffering from constipation, adapting your diet will help. Everyone’s is different so you know what is normal for you. If you are passing gas, your stoma is working. Increasing your fluid intake will help with constipation, but if you have any discomfort or concerns please contact your specialist stoma nurse or pharmacist. If you haven’t passed stool for 3-4 days, they may recommend a laxative.

Diarrhoea
Occasionally, just like everyone else, you may suffer from a bout of diarrhea or loose stool. Don’t be too alarmed about this. A one-off episode of diarrhea may be caused by something you ate and will often resolve itself. However, three or more consecutive loose stools are a cause for concern as you risk becoming dehydrated. At this point, you should consult your ostomy nurse.


Dining out
Once you have a better idea of the types of foods that suit you, there’s no reason not to enjoy eating out again.

Start with a familiar restaurant and keep it simple – something like a pizza. When ordering, you don’t have to be too over-cautious, just sensible. Order what you want but be aware that rich foods and sauces may cause a problem.

If you’re concerned about particular types of food, try them out at home first so you know how you’re going to react, and then add them to your diet gradually.

If you normally have a drink at home, start with a smaller version of your usual, e.g. a small beer rather than a large one. This will help your body build up your tolerance to alcohol again.

Socializing
Whether it’s a quiet drink in your local bar, a meal out with your partner or going out with friends, nothing should stop you from enjoying all the social events that you were doing before your operation.

It may be helpful to set yourself small targets to start with. It could be something as simple as using a public restroom for the first time, visiting a restaurant or relative or planning a day away. Before long, you will be thinking about booking a holiday or even going out dancing.

When you meet new people, you don’t have to tell them about your condition, unless you are comfortable doing that. It’s entirely up to you.

Intimate relationships
Having any type of operation can affect how you look and feel about your body. Try and accept that it will take time to adjust. It’s not just about your stoma but your whole body.

Sexual activity doesn’t put you at risk of damaging your stoma and most people are able to resume a healthy sex life. It is natural to feel nervous so only do what feels comfortable, take your time and talk to your partner.

There are small ostomy pouches that can be used during intimate moments. Call Coloplast Consumer Care to discuss options for intimacy, or explore sample options online.

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Elderly couple laughing in their car Traveling with an ostomy Having an ostomy shouldn’t stop you from traveling. Tips for traveling with an ostomy
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Vacation and travel with an ostomy

Vacation and travel
Having an ostomy shouldn't stop you from traveling. You may, however, need a bit of time to adjust to having an ostomy and feel ready to travel. Start by taking short trips, and see how it goes from there.

Whether you are traveling by car, ferry, train or plane, it’s important to be well prepared. Pack a small, travel changing bag and keep plenty of extra pouches and any other supplies you may need with you.

Flying
If you are flying, make sure you pack plenty of supplies to take with you on the flight and for while you’re away, plus extra for contingencies. Divide up your supplies in different bags just in case your luggage is misplaced or your flight is delayed. Don’t forget that scissors aren’t permitted in carry-on luggage, so cut all of your barriers to fit your stoma before you fly.

Don’t be concerned about your pouch expanding due to the change in cabin pressure. Ostomy pouches have been designed and tested to withstand pressure changes.

Traveling abroad
Before you travel abroad, check your travel insurance policy to see how your condition and circumstances are covered while away.

In warmer climates, you may perspire more and thus need to change your pouch more frequently. Always make sure your skin is completely dry before applying a new pouch to ensure a good secure fit. If necessary, use a hairdryer to dry the area – but be careful not to have the heat setting too hot.

You may also be at increased risk of diarrhea or dehydration. Drink plenty of water, and consider bringing medicine to treat diarrhea, just in case.

Once you are on vacation, remember that you can still do all of the same activities you did before, and relax and enjoy yourself.

Vacation tips:

  • Store stoma pouches in a cool place
  • Use bottled drinking water to change your pouch when out and about
  • Apply suntan lotion after you’ve put your pouch on, as the creams may affect the adhesive
  • Seal and empty used pouches and dispose of them with normal trash
  • If you feel a bit self-conscious about leaving pouches in your hotel room, use public trash cans
  • Before leaving for your vacation, find out where you can get professional healthcare assistance at your destination, just in case.
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Managing your ostomy pouch


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In order to make you confident with the preparation, application, use and disposal of ostomy appliances, we made the below interactive guide. The guide takes you through the practical aspects of managing ostomy appliances. This includes tips to optimize performance of your appliance. After answering three questions regarding your stoma and appliance, a personal interactive guide will be created to assist you in managing your appliance.

 

Click here to access the Guide to managing Ostomy Appliances

BodyCheck

Question marks Ostomy terms explained Life after ostomy surgery is a journey, with challenges along the way. Your body can continue to change and there are a lot of new things to come to grips with – starting with the key terminology of ostomy appliances. Read common terms of ostomy systems
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Ostomy terms explained

To help you better understand your ostomy system and discuss your needs with your enterostomal therapy nurse, here is a glossary of commonly used terms.

Baseplate: The part of an ostomy pouching system that attaches the appliance to your skin while you are wearing it. The adhesive must ensure close contact with the skin surface and protect it so that output from your stoma does not touch the surrounding skin.

 

Coupling system: This attaches the barrier to the pouch in a two-piece appliance, allowing the pouch to be changed without changing the barrier. It can either be mechanical, or adhesive.

Convexity: A specially shaped baseplate with an oval shell that puts light pressure on the skin around the stoma. It is designed to accommodate a stoma that is difficult to manage, for example, a retracted stoma that lies below the skin.

Extended wear adhesive: An adhesive that can be worn for a longer time period, or if there is “aggressive” output from your stoma. Some types of ileostomy or urostomy can have output that breaks down standard adhesives too quickly. Extended wear adhesives are generally used with two-piece appliances.

Filter: From time to time, your stoma releases gas. The filter included in the appliance has a deodorizing action which helps ensure there is no odor, one of the things that people often worry about. It also controls the release of the deodorized wind, so that your bag doesn’t inflate (which is also called ‘ballooning’).

Non-return valve: Urostomy appliances have a non-return valve to stop urine from flowing back to the stoma and help prevent urinary infections.

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Stories from people with an ostomy

Ostomate laughing on the beach Stories from people with an ostomy There are thousands of people around the world living with an ostomy. Read some of their stories here. Read stories from people with an ostomy
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User stories

My first trip out

“My first trip was to the hospital café with visitors and my 14-year-old daughter. While there, I went to the restroom as my pouch needed emptying. I can remember feeling really proud of myself and realizing that life would go on after ostomy surgery.”
Ann

“I was quite weak after the operation, but even in the first month, I used to go out for a daily walk to regain my mobility and sense of well-being.”
Samaira

My first vacation

“I went to Turkey four months after surgery. I carried lots of spare ostomy pouches in my carry-on (in case my suitcase got lost). I wore a one-piece swimsuit with a sarong. The biggest issue was getting my ostomy pouch to stick after a shower – when it was very hot and steamy.”
Ann

11 months after my operation, I went to Australia to see our family. The flight was no trouble and the flight attendant looked after us well. I brought a travel card  with us to explain my condition so we didn’t have to wait in line.”
Rosemarie

Going back to work

“I returned to work after three months. I remember taking spare clothes to the office. My biggest issue was my pouch making embarrassing noises in meetings.”
Ann

“I was on leave for the first three months after my surgery to regain my strength. Afterwards, I had a phased return to work and gradually upped the work time, to get used to being back. In the beginning I was very tired, so this was a good way of returning to work.”
Fiona

“I retired from my driving job with the ambulance service and now work on a voluntary basis at a cancer support service which my friend set up. We offer cancer patients pampering treatments to give them a feeling of well-being.”
Hazel

Getting back to life

“With time, I realized that people couldn’t see I was wearing a pouch, and I could do all the things I had done before the surgery. There is no hobby or activity that I did before that I can’t do now.”
Fiona

“At first it was very hard. But with the help of my husband and friends, I pulled through. Now I can change the pouch myself and do all the normal things I did before my operation. Sometimes I even forget I have a pouch.”
Rosemarie

“The main thing is to go back and do the things you were doing prior to your surgery. Keep in touch with your WOC nurse. I know they are busy, but if you’re feeling down, they will try to help. Think about the important things in your life and focus on them. Join support groups or subscribe to magazines. A stoma shouldn't hinder your life, although it may sometimes feel like this, even after a year.”

Samaira

 

*These patient testimonials demonstrate successful results. Individual results may vary. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine what product solution is right for you.

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Coloplast Care

A Coloplast® Care Experience

A Coloplast® Care Experience

"I got to dance at my daughter's wedding!" Robin – an ileostomate – shares her Coloplast Care experience.

Watch Robin's story
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A Coloplast® Care Experience

*These patient testimonials demonstrate successful results. Individual results may vary. Speak with your healthcare professional to determine what product solution is right for you.

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