Ostomy Myths Debunked: Revealing the Reality of Living with an Ostomy

February 21,2020 |

An ostomy is a life-saving procedure that allows your body to utilize a waste bypass system created by a stoma when natural systems aren’t working properly. Ostomies are often performed only when necessary such as in the case of birth defects, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, incontinence, and a few other medical conditions.1 However, when people hear the word ostomy, they start thinking of a long list of drawbacks. People who hear the word ostomy associate it with major life changes that will drastically decrease their quality of life. This isn’t the case. With an ostomy, you’re getting a chance to live and while it might be a little inconvenient at first, it’s not nearly as bad as people think. To help you better understand what life with an ostomy is like, it’s helpful to look at a few common ostomy myths and debunk them once and for all.

  1. People Can Tell You Have an Ostomy

    One of the most concerning ostomy myths is that everyone you meet can tell that you have an ostomy. This is far from true. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. No one will be able to tell that you have an ostomy unless you decide to tell them. Ostomy systems are extremely discreet and come in a variety of options that allow you to conceal them under whatever type of clothing you choose to wear.2 There are also a number of different sizes of ostomy pouches that allow you to be even more discreet when you need to be.

    Chances are by this time in your life, you’ve already met someone with an ostomy and don’t even know it. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are currently living with ostomies and about 120,000 new surgeries are performed each year.3 People of all ages, shapes, and sizes have gotten ostomies and are able to live normal lives without advertising their surgeries. People simply cannot tell that you have an ostomy and ostomy accessories are not noticeable.

  2. Exercise Will be More Difficult

    If you were an athlete or a gym enthusiast prior to your surgery, you’ll still be able to exercise after you’ve healed. Doctors recommend avoiding any heavy lifting for the first few months after your surgery, but not for the rest of your life.4 You’ll work with your doctor to monitor your healing and slowly get back into your routine. If you were dealing with health problems, you’ll probably even end up finding exercise easier after you’ve made a full recovery.4 There are plenty of famous athletes and bodybuilders who are living proof that exercise is still possible with an ostomy. 

    If you like to swim for exercise don’t worry, you’ll still be able to do that too. There’s no reason that having an ostomy would prevent you from getting in the water—just make sure that you’re using the right ostomy supplies to avoid leaks or loosening.2

  3. Ostomies Smell Bad

    One of the biggest concerns that people have is that they’ll emit an odor once they have an ostomy. With the many medical advances made in ostomy technology, this is no longer a looming threat.2 Having an ostomy does not mean that you will deal with relentless odors that cause people around you to pinch their nose in disgust. While there are a few circumstances where odors are going to be more pungent—such as when you’re changing or emptying your bag—it’s the same when anyone without an ostomy uses the bathroom.2

    If you’d rather stray on the safe side until you get used to your ostomy, there are plenty of ways to proactively avoid ostomy odor. There are a number of products you can use in conjunction with your ostomy pouching system to reduce the likelihood of ostomy odor getting out of hand. But don’t worry too much about this. A well-fitting ostomy system will not emit odor.     

  4. Physical Intimacy is Impossible

    Another major concern people have when they get an ostomy is regarding physical intimacy and their sex life. A lot of people assume that after you get an ostomy, they’ll say goodbye to sex forever. The biggest potential issue here is about insecurity and anxiety—there are no real physical barriers to having sex with an ostomy. However, as most of us know, psychological intimacy problems can be just as troubling as physical intimacy problems, which is why communication is so important. Talk to your partner and be open regarding your concerns and feelings about your ostomy before engaging in physical intimacy. This will give you the chance to relieve any stress or anxiety you’re having.2 In the meantime, read this great comprehensive guide regarding sex with an ostomy.

    More often than not, when you’re in the moment the last thing you or your partner will be thinking about is your ostomy. However, if you still feel self-conscious and would prefer to cover it up, you can invest in a support belt to cover your ostomy pouch. Wait until you’re fully healed before engaging in physical activity to reduce the chances of any complications.

  5. I’ll Never be Able to Have Kids

    In the majority of cases, having an ostomy surgery will not lead to fertility problems.5 Having a stoma isn’t synonymous with not being able to have children. If you have trouble conceiving, your infertility problems were likely present prior to your surgery. To better understand your body prior to your surgery, talk to your doctor about undergoing fertility tests. If you do get pregnant with an ostomy, you can expect normal fetal development with no pregnancy or delivery complications.5 The biggest change will be to the contours of your skin surrounding your stoma, but there are ways to manage that and it will not affect the health of your baby.5 As long as you’re healthy and fertile, you can still have as many kids as you want with an ostomy.

  6. Travel Will be Stressful

    Whether you travel a lot for work or just have an adventurous side, you’ll still be able to pack your bags and venture out with an ostomy. Having a stoma will not stop you from going anywhere—you just need to be prepared for the journey. If you’re planning on traveling, either domestically or internationally, make sure that you talk to your doctor about creating a packing list and getting some tips. Planning ahead will ensure that you’re prepared for anything and will give you the confidence you need to get on the road.

    If you’re getting on a plane, rest assured that your ostomy pouch will not expand or burst during the flight.2 If you notice a slight expansion or bubbles, this is likely due to something you ate or drank and all you need to do is change or empty your bag. To make sure that you have everything you need, even if things don’t go as planned, always carry-on enough ostomy supplies to last at least a few days. Finally, if you’re worried about TSA pat-downs or screenings, get an UOAA travel communication card to help notify the agents ahead of time.2

  7. You Need to Maintain a Strict Diet

    If you’re going to get an ostomy, you might think that you have to maintain a strict diet for the rest of your life. This isn’t true. While you should adjust your diet during the healing process, you can start to incorporate foods back into your diet slowly to see how your body reacts. If you don’t have any sensitivities or strong reactions to foods, you won’t be restricted from eating anything. For a number of reasons, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy, balanced diet—regardless of if you’ve had an ostomy or not—but you don’t need to be on a strict diet for life. To help you get started, here are some great diet tips for managing your ostomy.

  8. All Ostomy Procedures are Permanent

Finally, what many people don’t realize is a lot of ostomy surgeries are temporary. During a temporary ostomy, which usually lasts up to two months, your body will get time to heal or repair itself after a trauma or surgery. Temporary ostomies are reversed later by detaching the colon or intestines from the abdominal wall and restoring the natural flow.6 Permanent ostomies are typically only performed when parts of the large intestine, colon, rectum, or anus need to be removed.2 The post-care procedures for temporary and permanent ostomies may differ, so always talk to your doctor to learn more about your specific circumstances. 


If you need an ostomy surgery, don’t worry. There are plenty of great products available to help you lead a normal life without any added complications. To get the most out of your ostomy, always opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies. You’ll need ostomy pouches, ostomy flanges, stoma powder, and skin prep essentials to get the most out of your ostomy skin care. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems. Byram is here to help save you time, money, and hassle.


1 https://www.ostomy.org/what-is-an-ostomy/

2 https://www.exmed.net/blog/ostomyhelp/post/2019/02/28/living-with-ostomy-the-top-8-stoma-myths-debunked.aspx

3 https://www.o-wm.com/content/ostomy-statistics-the-64000-question

4 https://www.180medical.com/blog/common-myths-about-living-with-an-ostomy/

5 http://www.colostomyuk.org/9-myths-stoma/

6 https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/colostomy