Having a stoma, whether it’s temporary or permanent, is a big change to your body. It can take time to adjust to. You may find it helpful to talk to someone who is used to living with a stoma. Your stoma nurse may be able to arrange this for you. You can also contact the Colostomy Association or the Ileostomy and Internal Pouch Association.
Learning to look after a stoma takes time and patience, and no one expects you to be able to cope perfectly straight away. Like anything new, it will get easier with time and practice. Your stoma nurse can help you cope with any problems.
If you have an ileostomy, you’ll wear a stoma bag that opens at the bottom so you can empty it. An ileostomy produces semi-liquid waste continuously, so you’ll need to empty the bag several times a day.
A colostomy may be active two or three times a day, but this will vary from person to person. It will also be affected by what you eat. It will usually settle into a pattern after a few weeks, so you can predict when it is likely to be active. You will usually need to change your stoma bag about 1–3 times a day.
Some people with a colostomy are taught how to flush out (irrigate) their colostomy once a day. This helps them to control when it is active. If you want to try this, your stoma care nurse can discuss it with you in more detail.
Before you change or empty your bag, make sure that you have plenty of bags and cleaning materials with you. It’s a good idea to keep everything you need in one place, so that you don’t have to search for things at the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time, so that you can work at your own pace without any interruptions.