Even though there is more public awareness about ostomies than ever before, there are still misconceptions that people commonly have about living with a stoma. Hopefully this article can help disspell some of these common myths and show that people with stomas can, at times with modifications, live the same lifestyles as anyone else.
1. “Everyone around you will notice your stoma”
New ostomates often fear that their stoma can be easily detected by others. However, unless you have told someone that you are wearing a stoma bag, it’s very unlikely that those around you would notice at all.
2. “Stomas are always permanent”
Around 35% of ostomates have a temporary stoma. They may be formed due to bowel cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis or other injuries to the bowel that require time to heal. Thanks to improved surgical techniques, the number of operations for permanent stomas are actually on the decline!
3. “Ostomates smell badly”
Modern stoma bags are completely odour proof, so ostomates should have no fears about people smelling their stoma. Of course there are odours associated with changing the bag, but should not be much different than the odours of using the restroom pre-surgery.
4. “You cannot swim with a stoma bag”
A common fear for new ostomates is that they will no longer be able to participate in the hobbies and activities that they would have enjoyed before the stoma. However, this is a myth and often not the case! There are two common fears preventing ostomates from swimming. Firstly, that their bag will come loose in the pool. A priority for modern ostomy bags is that they are very secure and will not fall off or damage your stoma, even underwater, so this is very unlikely. Secondly, many ostomates are self-conscious of other people knowing that they are wearing a bag. The good news is, there are options for ostomates, like using smaller bags for swimming, bag covers, a plug, or wearing specially designed swimwear to conceal the stoma.
5. “Your diet has to change completely”
For the weeks post-operation, this is somewhat true-you will be required to temporarily alter your diet to shorten the recovery process. But, this is by no means a long-term adjustment. You will not be forced to give up your favourite things just because of your new stoma; instead, it is all about learning what you feels best to eat and trying to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
6. “Ostomates can’t get pregnant”
Crohn’s Disease can cause infertility in some people, but infertility is not as a result of having a stoma itself. It is still possible for ostomates to get pregnant.
7. “Young people don’t have stomas”
This is a myth. Stomas may be created for a variety of reasons or due to a number of conditions, and the truth is that most of them can occur at any age. Even infants can be born with birth defects that require stomas.
8. “Ostomates can’t be intimate”
Any concerns and insecurities about having a stoma and being intimate can be mitigated by being open and honest with your partner. You may discuss questions that they may have and insecurities or concerns and work through them together. It is totally possible to continue to enjoy intimacy without fear – the contrary is a myth!