After stoma surgery

The days after stoma surgery can be challenging. You have a pouch attached to your abdomen and lots of new things to learn. It's important to remember that it takes time to adjust, but it will get easier. With support from your stoma care nurse and practical guidance on how to change your ostomy pouch and care for your skin, you should soon be able to do the things you’ve always done.

In this section, you’ll find information that is intended to guide you as you become used to your stoma, up to the first 3 months after surgery. As well as information on managing your stoma, you’ll find helpful tips, keeping your skin healthy and other aspects of getting used to your stoma.

Skip back to 'Before stoma surgery' (preparing for stoma surgery)
Skip forward to 'Living with a stoma' (3+ months after surgery)

Getting used to your stoma

Taking good care of your skin

Taking good care of your skin

Keeping the skin around your stoma in good condition is the most important thing you can do to make life with a stoma pouch secure, comfortable and worry-free. Caring for your skin

Taking good care of your stoma

It is important to keep the skin around your stoma healthy. Contact between stoma output and skin causes skin irritation that then affects how well the adhesive on the appliance sticks to your body. This creates a vicious circle of more leakage and even more irritated skin.


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 adhesive
  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 adhesive 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
If you have concerns that your appliance is not providing a secure enough fit for your stoma and body shape, it is always advisable to check with your stoma care nurse first. There are many different types of stoma appliances available, so you might have to try a few to find the perfect product for you. 

You can choose between different pouch sizes, application systems, colours, adhesive 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 available 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.

What will the stoma look and feel like after surgery?

What will the stoma look and feel like 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. The days after stoma surgery

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 colour and should protrude from your abdomen. It may be quite swollen to begin with but will reduce in size over time – usually 6 to 8 weeks after surgery. A stoma is red in colour.  This is because it 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 quite 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 wind will come from the stoma – again this is perfectly normal. It is not uncommon to feel the need to go to the toilet 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.

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

How do I learn about adjusting to life with a stoma?

How do I learn about adjusting to life with a stoma?

Your stoma care 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. Taking care of your stoma

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 associations 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 hospital, your stoma care nurse will make arrangements for a follow-up consultation to make sure you feel confident caring for your stoma.

Overcoming challenges
Once you are home, you may experience some challenges caring for your stoma. But remember that your stoma care nurse, as well as Customer Care will be more than happy to help you with any issues.


Find the Mio that fits your body

Bodies change, so an appliance that once fit correctly may not continue to do so. Finding the right appliance for your current body profile is important to get the right fit. Try taking the BodyCheck to see if you are using the best appliance for you body.

Adjusting to everyday life with a stoma

Everyday life with a stoma

Everyday life with a stoma

As you recover from the surgery, you’ll find yourself adjusting to life with a stoma. Read hints an tips on socialising, food and drink, and exercising. Everyday life with a stoma

Everyday life with a stoma

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 stoma care 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 costume with ruched fabric or patterns can help disguise the stoma 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 put your bag on, as the creams may affect the adhesive.



You don’t need to follow a special diet, but just like anyone else, some foods may cause wind 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 wind, as can peppermint and fennel tea. Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks can help some people too.

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

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 wind. 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 specialist stoma nurse if you have any concerns. 

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 wind, 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 been for 3-4 days, they may recommend a laxative.

Occasionally, just like everyone else, you may suffer from a bout of diarrhoea or loose stools. Don’t be too alarmed about this. A one-off episode of diarrhoea 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 stoma care 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.

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 toilet 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.

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 stoma pouches that can be used during intimate moments. Contact customer service for complimentary samples.

Who and what to tell about your stoma

Who and what to tell about your stoma

After your operation, one of the big questions may be: how and who do I tell about my stoma? Who to tell?

Who and what to tell about your stoma

Whoever you decide to tell, 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 a stoma 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.

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 a stoma. Then, in case there are any problems or issues, you will have someone to talk to. 

Stoma appliance terms explained

Stoma appliance terms explained

Life after stoma surgery is a journey, with challenges along the way. Your body can continue to change and there are a lot of new things to get to grips with – starting with the key terminology of stoma appliances. Read common terms of stoma appliances.

Stoma appliance terms explained

To help you better understand your stoma appliance and discuss your needs with your stoma care nurse, here is a glossary of commonly used terms.

Adhesive: The part of a stoma appliance that attaches the appliance to your skin while you are wearing it. The adhesive must ensure close contact with the skin surface so that output from your stoma does not touch the surrounding skin.

Baseplate: The part of a two-piece stoma appliance that is covered by the adhesive.

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

Convexity: A specially shaped baseplate with an oval shell that puts light pressure on the peristomal skin. It is designed to help pouch 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 flatus or wind. The filter included in the appliance has a deodorising action which helps ensure there is no odour, one of the things that people often worry about. It also controls the release of the deodorised 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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