I Have Ostomy Questions: What are the Best Resources to Answer My Questions?

April 01,2021 |

Anytime surgery is mentioned, your mind begins to wonder. Anxiety builds and the questions start rolling in. It’s understandable as surgery can be a scary experience, but in most instances, surgery is done to improve your quality of life. The same is said for ostomies. Ostomy surgeries result in both internal and external changes, which tends to make people nervous. However, ostomies are lifesaving procedures and aren’t meant to restrict your daily decisions. Unfortunately, the extreme changes can lead to negative impacts. To make sure that you continually view your surgery from a positive aspect, it’s important to get the proper support and find answers to your ostomy questions. To accomplish this, here are some of the most commonly asked ostomy questions along with the best resources to answer further inquiries.

Understanding Your Ostomy

If you need to undergo an ostomy surgery, the first thing that you should understand is what type of surgery you’re having. There are three primary types of ostomies that are performed. They can either be temporary or permanent and are often performed only in necessary circumstances. Ostomies change the way that urine and/or stool exits the body. The surgery results in a stoma, which connects to an external pouch for collection.

A colostomy is when a piece of your colon or rectum is removed, so stool is rerouted and exits through a stoma, which is surgically created on your abdominal wall. A urostomy occurs when you reroute a small section of your small intestine through a stoma. This allows urine to pass through the kidneys and directly exit your body. An ileostomy is when the end of the ileum (the lowest part of your small intestine) is rerouted through a stoma.

The 15 Most Frequently Asked Ostomy Questions

Regardless of what type of ostomy surgery you need to undergo, there are often a lot of questions that follow. It’s a big life change, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t still do the things you love. Here are the 15 most frequently asked ostomy questions.

  1. When Should I Change my Ostomy Pouch?

    The best time to change your ostomy pouch really depends on your personal schedule. It’s good practice to change your ostomy pouch about 30-45 minutes after you wake up in the morning. This allows you to change your pouch while you’re still in the comfort of your home and getting ready for the day.

  2. How Often Do I Need to Empty My Pouch?

    Again, this tends to vary between person to person but it’s a good rule of thumb to empty your ostomy pouch when it’s about one-third to one-half full. This allows you to avoid any problems if you can’t find a restroom for a few hours. The type of ostomy you have will also lead to variable emptying schedules. Talk to your doctor for specifics and then try to create a schedule during the first few weeks of your ostomy.

  3. How Do I Empty my Ostomy Pouch?

    Emptying your ostomy pouch with precision and efficiency may take some time, but it’s not as difficult as you think. There are many different types of pouching systems on the market, which all have specific instructions. Generally speaking, you can do so while sitting or standing over a toilet and emptying the contents into the bowl. Clean the outside area before reattaching and you’re all set.

  4. What Will my Stoma Look like?

    A stoma is the area where part of your intestine meets the abdominal wall. A healthy stoma will be red and shiny. Your stoma can change size and shape during initial healing, pregnancy, weight loss, and injury or infection. Make sure that you prioritize ostomy skin care and call your doctor if you have any concerns with the size, shape, or coloring of your stoma.

  5. How Do I Shower with an Ostomy?

    You can shower the same as you always have. There are plenty of options for waterproof packs that you can keep on, or you can take the pouch off and shower without it. Just make sure you avoid using any harsh soaps or chemicals on your stoma and surrounding peristomal skin to avoid irritation.

  6. Can I Swim with an Ostomy?

    Ostomates can still enjoy swimming without having to fear about leakage. The primary thing to keep in mind is finding a product that you’re comfortable with. If you’re nervous, make sure that you test it out first. If you don’t want your ostomy pouch to show, there are plenty of accessories you can use to help keep it compact while you’re enjoying the water.

  7. Can I Control the Time of my Ostomy Output?

    Unfortunately, no. It is fairly difficult, if not impossible, to control the time your output empties into the pouch. There are ways that you can help influence this, such as in the case with timed eating and irrigation, but output shouldn’t be something you need to worry about if you’re using the right ostomy pouching system.

  8. Are There Dietary Restrictions with my Ostomy?

    There are no dietary restrictions per se, but everyone’s digestive system is different. Some people can eat everything they did before, while others find that it’s harder to digest fiber. Right after your surgery, consider working through an elimination diet and make sure that you’re chewing your food thoroughly to help improve digestion.

  9. Is There Anything I Can Do to Eliminate Ostomy Odor?

    If you notice odor, check the seal of your pouch. If everything is as it should be, consider using products to help eliminate ostomy odor.

  10. Can I Travel with an Ostomy?

    Of course! Traveling with an ostomy doesn’t require any changes aside from packing the necessary supplies and understanding how to pouch in difficult situations (airplane bathrooms, on road trips, etc.). The best way to ensure seamless travel is to overpack and be prepared to explain your ostomy to TSA agents.

  11. Is it Hard to Choose Outfits with an Ostomy?

    Most ostomates still wear the same wardrobes as before their surgery. If you are used to wearing more revealing clothing, you may find that the pouch is exposed. However, if you’re comfortable then who cares! Choosing what to wear every day is your decision and is a great way to express yourself. For those wanting help with inconspicuous options, stick to dark colors and consider wearing Spanx or an ostomy support band.

  12. Can I Have an Intimate Relationship with an Ostomy?

    Absolutely. Ostomies do not impair sexual function in any way. The biggest obstacle to face is going to be discussing it with your partner. Just be calm, honest, and open and remember that your ostomy puts no limitations on intimacy or sex.

  13. Can I Get Pregnant with an Ostomy?

    Yes, you can still get pregnant with an ostomy. While conception may be more difficult, it is possible. Talk to your doctor if you’re trying to get pregnant to better understand your circumstances and develop a plan for stoma care as your body changes.

  14. Do I Need to Tell Others About my Ostomy?

    It is completely up to you whether or not you tell others about your ostomy. You are under no obligation to share your circumstances with anyone. Just keep in mind that you may be questioned about it during TSA screenings while traveling, so call your airport ahead of time for more information.

  15. How Do I Tell Someone About my Ostomy?

If you decide to tell someone about your ostomy, begin with the origination of your illness. You may find that telling others about your ostomy is inspiring and empowering, but if the receiving ear doesn’t understand, it could be difficult to process. Being prepared and emotionally ready to discuss is important to creating a comfortable environment for you. The more you spread ostomy awareness, the easier it will get.

More Resources for Ostomy Questions and Answers

While the above is a good place to get started, it’s not a definitive list of questions that new ostomates have. To make sure that you have the best resources available to answer all of your questions, begin now. Get integrated in the community of ostomates near you and don’t be afraid to ask whatever comes to your mind. There are millions of people living with ostomies and chances are, many of them have had the same question.

Some of the best resources for ostomy questions and answers include finding an ostomy support group, staying up to date with the United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc., or looking at support group forums from previous chapters or meetings. You can also ask a question directly on the NWA Ostomy Support Group website. Byram Healthcare is another resource that provides ongoing updates to the ostomy community, ostomy education and support, and products that can be discreetly delivered to your door. For young children undergoing an ostomy, check out our Awesome Ollie Bear Program.