You can hide your ostomy

To you, the ostomy bag attached to you is very obvious. When you look in the mirror, you notice the bag under your clothes. You might think every gurgle and noise coming from your stoma is loud and heard by everyone in the room.

Most people won't notice your ostomy unless you tell them about it. As you get used to your ostomy, you'll figure out tips and tricks 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 ostomy nurse 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 ostomy nurse or visit your medical supply store for pouch deodorants or air sprays to minimize odor.

Ask a close friend or loved one whose opinion you trust whether your ostomy bag is visible under your clothes or if the sounds your ostomy makes are as loud as you think they are. Everyone's body makes noises and produces odors from time to time. While it can be embarrassing, don't let a fear of what could go wrong keep you from going about your day.

You can wear whatever you want if you have an ostomy

No clothing is off-limits if you have an ostomy. However, your individual body contour and your stoma's location may make some clothes less comfortable. For instance, tight waistbands or belts might feel restrictive over your stoma. Be open to experimenting with different styles of clothes.

But don't let your ostomy keep you from wearing tightfitting clothes or even your bathing suit. Look into ostomy swimsuits and trunks, which can be found through specialty retailers.

You can go wherever you want if you have an ostomy

It will take some pre-trip planning, but having an ostomy shouldn't prevent you from traveling. If you'll be traveling by airplane, bring extra ostomy supplies and pack them in both your carry-on and checked bags.

Consider carrying a statement from your doctor about your ostomy. This note might explain why you have an ostomy and ask airport security screeners to respect your privacy during searches.

You can have sex and intimate relationships if you have an ostomy

You'll need time to recover after surgery. And depending on what type of ostomy surgery you have, you may experience some temporary sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness. But sexual intimacy can continue after you have an ostomy.

If you feel less attractive with your ostomy, take your return to intimacy slowly. Maybe you aren't ready to have sex right away. Discuss this with your partner. Suggest starting with touching and kissing. Your partner can help make you feel more comfortable and reassure you that you are just as attractive with 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. Ask your ostomy nurse about companies that sell these products.

Certain aspects of sex may change with an ostomy. You might find that some sexual positions put pressure on your ostomy and are uncomfortable. Experiment with new positions, such as lying on your side.

People with ostomies who are dating often worry about when to tell new companions about their ostomies. That's up to you. Some people feel more comfortable getting it out in the open right away, while others want to get to know and trust a potential partner first. Do what feels right for you. Know that rejection is possible, and give a new partner time to consider what an ostomy means to your relationship. Answer questions openly and honestly.

Talk to others with ostomies

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. You can ask questions that you might be embarrassed to ask your doctor or nurse. And you can get tips to help you adapt to life with an ostomy.

Aug. 13, 2011 See more In-depth