Living with an Ostomy

Exercise

You’ll be free to go back to the activities you enjoy after you heal from ostomy surgery. The main danger is injury to the opening where waste or urine leaves your body (stoma), which means rough sports be prohibited. Before you begin lifting weights after your surgery, you may need to wait for your surgical incision to heal and you should check with your provider. They also might recommend a device to support your abdomen when lifting weights. If you’re nervous that running, swimming or other athletic activity will loosen your ostomy bag and cause a leak, use a special belt or binder to hold your ostomy bag in place.

With a tracheotomy, you will need special equipment to go swimming with a stoma. Your provider will be able to give you more information about equipment that is available. Other water sports, such as diving or water-skiing, are not recommended because of the danger of water entering the stoma.

Work

After your surgery heals, you can go back to work. If your line of work involves manual labor or lots of lifting, your doctor may recommend ways to protect your stoma on the job. If you’re nervous about caring for your ostomy at work, talk to your provider. Returning to work is a good way to transition back to a normal routine, and working again can make you feel good.

With a tracheotomy, you can return to work with no problems. An exception may be who’s job requires heavy lifting. Heavy lifting requires a person to hold their breath, and people with a stoma can’t do this. Some people may need to adjust their work situation when living with an ostomy.

Clothing

You can wear whatever you want when you are living with an ostomy. However, your individual body contour and your stoma’s location may make some clothes less comfortable. A tight waistband or belt might feel restrictive over your stoma. Be open to experimenting with different styles of clothes. don’t let your ostomy keep you from wearing tightfitting clothes or even your bathing suit.

Most people won’t notice your ostomy unless you tell them about it. You’ll figure out tips and ways to keep the bag concealed and the noises to a minimum. Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Empty your ostomy bag when it gets to be one-third full. That way it won’t bulge under your clothes.
• Work with your provider to find the ostomy pouching system that works best for you.
• If you’re worried about the odor when emptying your ostomy bag, ask your provider or visit your medical supply store for pouch deodorants or air sprays to minimize odor.

Sex and Intimacy

Sexual intimacy can continue after you have an ostomy. Take steps before intimacy to feel more confident. Empty and clean your ostomy pouch. Check the seal to make sure it’s tight. Use an opaque pouch or try a pouch cover. Lingerie and cummerbunds made to conceal a pouch or hold it in place are available from specialty retailers.

Peer Support

Get in touch with other people with ostomies — they sometimes refer to themselves as ostomates. Whether it’s a support group in your community or online, getting advice from people who’ve been there is a great way to boost your confidence. Living with an ostomy doesn’t have to hold you back from normal activities.

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