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HealthSheets™

Colostomy: Adjusting to Your Body

Man and woman sitting on couch in front of fireplace, smiling at one another.

Getting used to a colostomy may take time. Learning to care for it and the changes in your body can be tough. Keep in mind that you are still the same person you were before the colostomy. And you can still do many of the activities that you love. This sheet offers tips to help you adjust to having a colostomy.

Accepting yourself

It’s normal to feel anxious about how your body has changed. But a health care provider will show you how to care for the colostomy and yourself. This may be a wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) nurse. A WOC nurse is specially trained to care for ostomy patients. Soon, caring for your colostomy will become part of your daily routine—like bathing or brushing your teeth.

Telling others

It’s your choice whether you tell others about your colostomy. No one can tell by looking at you or being near you that you have a colostomy. Your pouch won’t bulge or smell if it’s put on right. You may worry about how to tell potential partners that you have a colostomy. It’s best to wait until you feel at ease with the person. But talk about it before you decide to have sex.

Sex and intimacy

You may have some concerns about how a colostomy will affect your sexuality. This is normal. Talk with your WOC nurse about fears you may have. He or she can offer help and advice. Also, share your feelings with your partner. People with colostomies still have sex. They also date, marry, and have children. Below are some tips:

  • Give yourself time. Wait until you feel well and relaxed. Until you are ready, you can express love in other ways, such as hugging, kissing, and caressing.

  • Empty your pouch before you have sex. You may want to wear a pouch cover or a shirt over the pouch. Or you might tuck the pouch under a soft belt or inside underwear with an open crotch.

  • Do not put anything in the stoma during sex.

Get support

Talking with another person who has had a colostomy can help, too. Members of the UOAA are glad to answer questions and talk with you about any concerns you have.

For loved ones

The person you love has not changed because he or she has a colostomy. But it may take time for your loved one to adjust. He or she may be depressed or withdrawn at first. Do your best to support your loved one as he or she gets used to having a colostomy. Your loved one may also want help caring for the colostomy at first. A WOC nurse or other healthcare provider can show you what to do. If you have questions or concerns, you can talk with someone from the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA). The UOAA is a support group for people with ostomies.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.