Following Ostomy Surgery
As always, in order to obtain answers to your individually specific questions, be sure to consult with your doctor or ostomy nurse for help.
1. Who should I tell? What should I say about my surgery?
You should tell those who need to know, such as healthcare providers, your spouse or significant others, and people who are involved in your recuperative care.
You need not feel you have to explain your surgery to everyone who asks. Those who are just curious need to know only that you had abdominal surgery, or that you had part or all of your colon or bladder removed. If you are considering marriage, thorough discussions with your future spouse about life with an ostomy and its affect on sex, children, and family acceptance will help alleviate misconceptions and fear on the part of the spouse.
If you have children, answer their questions simply and truthfully. A simple explanation will be enough for them. You may want to confide in your employer or a good friend at work because keeping it a complete secret may cause practical difficulties.
2. Will I be able to continue my daily activities once I recover from surgery?
As your strength returns, you can go back to your regular activities. Most people can return to their previous line of work; however, communicate with your healthcare team about your daily routines, so they can assist you to returning to maximum health as early as possible.
An ostomy should not limit your participation in sports. Many physicians do not allow contact sports because of possible injury to the stoma from a severe blow or because the pouching system may slip, but these problems can be overcome with special ostomy supplies. Weight lifting may result in a hernia at the stoma. Check with your doctor about such sports. There are many people who are distance runners, skiers, swimmers, and participants in many other types of athletics.
3. What about showering and bathing? Should I bathe with or without my pouch?
You may bathe with or without your pouching system in place. If you wish to take a shower or bath with your pouch off, you can do so. Normal exposure to air or contact with soap and water will not harm the stoma, and water does not enter the opening. Choose a time for bathing when the bowel is less active. You can also leave your pouch on while bathing.
4. What can I eat? Will I need to change my diet?
There may be some modifications in your diet according to the type of ostomy surgery.
People with colostomy and ileostomy surgery should return to their normal diet after a period of adjustment. Introduce foods back into your diet a little at a time and monitor the effect of each food on the ostomy function. Chew your food well and drink plenty of fluids. Some less digestible or high roughage foods are more likely to create potential for blockage problems (i.e., corn, coconut, mushrooms, nuts, raw fruits and vegetables).
There are no eating restrictions as a result of urostomy surgery. Urostomates should drink plenty of liquids each day following the healthcare team's recommendations.
5. Will I be able to wear the same clothes as before?
Whatever you wore before surgery, you can wear afterward with very few exceptions. Many pouching systems are made today that are unnoticeable even when wearing the most stylish, form fitting clothing for men and women.
ending on your stoma location you might find belts uncomfortable or restrictive. Some people choose to wear higher or looser waistbands on trousers and skirts. Cotton knit or stretch underpants or panty hose may give the support and security you need. Some men finds that jockey type shorts help support the pouch.
Women may want to choose a swimsuit that has a lining to provide a smoother profile. Stretch panties (with lycra) can be also be worn under a swimsuit to add support and smooth out any bulges or outlines. Men may prefer to wear a tank shirt and trunks if the stoma is above the belt line.
6. What about sex and intimacy? Will I be able to get pregnant after surgery?
Sexual relationships and intimacy are important and fulfilling aspects of your life that should continue after ostomy surgery. Your attitude is a key factor in re-establishing sexual expression and intimacy. A period of adjustment after surgery is to be expected. Sexual function in women is usually not impaired, while sexual potency of men may sometimes be affected, usually only temporarily. Discuss any problems with your physician and/or ostomy nurse.
Your ability to conceive does not change and pregnancy and delivery should be normal after ostomy surgery. However, if you are thinking about becoming pregnant, you should first check with your doctor about any other health problems.
For more information a sexuality guide is available from UOA, or check out our sexuality fact sheets:
Sex and the Male Ostomate
Sex and the Female Ostomate
Sex and the Single Ostomate
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