Living your life after ostomy surgery

Living with a stoma

Here you'll find information about life with a stoma 3+ months after surgery, as you become more experienced. Read guidance on how to keep your skin around the stoma healthy, as well as useful online tools for ensuring you still have the right product and troubleshooting any problems you might be having such as stoma bag leakage or sore skin around your stoma.

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Taking care of your stoma

Stoma bag leakage is a big concern for many people, so it is useful to find ways to prevent leakage from your colostomy, ileostomy or urostomy. Maintaining healthy skin around your stoma is key to ensure that the ostomy pouch sticks to your skin, and ensuring that the baseplate is cut to the right size for your stoma is also important to avoid ostomy leakage.

6 steps to healthy skin around your stoma

6 steps to healthy skin around your stoma

Taking care of your stoma and the skin around it will ensure that your stoma pouch can work optimally and reduce the risk of stoma pouch leakage. This will help you feel secure and confident in any situation. How to keep your skin and stoma healthy

Keeping the skin around your stoma healthy

Most people living with a stoma experience irritated skin now and again. However, irritated skin is not a ‘normal’ skin condition. For your stoma pouch to be comfortable and worry-free, it’s important to prevent skin irritation and maintain healthy skin in the area.


The cycle of irritation

Leakage leads to contact between output from the stoma and the skin, which causes irritation. The problem is that once your skin becomes irritated, the adhesive on your pouch won’t attach properly, leading to more leaking of output. A vicious cycle of leakage and skin irritation can develop.

Six steps to healthy skin around your stoma:

  1. Make sure your skin is clean and completely dry before applying the adhesive part of the pouch
  2. Adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it fits exactly the diameter of your stoma. After surgery it’s normal that you body shape will change. It’s important that you keep checking to see if your template is the right size and shape for your stoma. Check this by positioning your cutting template over your stoma to see if the hole fits perfectly.
  3. Regularly check the size of the stoma, especially if you have a hernia
  4. Ensure full contact between the adhesive and your skin by exerting light pressure with your hand
  5. Change your appliance as soon as you feel any itching or discomfort
  6. Make sure to use the stoma appliance and accessories most appropriate for your body profile

For more advice on the correct stoma care routines, follow the Apply-Check-Remove steps.


You may also wish to use our Brava Skin Cleanser which contains provitamin B5 to maintain healthy skin.

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.

Use the right supporting products
Coloplast also offers a wide range of supporting products and accessories available to make wearing a stoma pouch even more comfortable. These can help improve sealing, prevent skin problems and reduce smell. To find out which of our Brava supporting products are most suitable for your needs, try our Ostomy Self-assessment Tools.

You can see more detailed instructions on changing and draining a stoma pouch in our instructional videos.

Getting the best fit for your body

Getting the best fit for your body

Every body is different, and your body changes over time. It's likely that your body and your stoma has changed shape or size since your first surgery. Read more about how to ensure you get the right stoma appliance to fit your current body profile. Finding the right product

Getting the best fit for your body

In the months and years following your operation, you may notice certain changes to your body. These changes can include: 

  • Weight gain or loss as you recover from the illness that caused the operation
  • Fold or scarring of the skin around your stoma
  • Hernia development connected to your stoma

As these changes occur, it’s important that you make sure your stoma pouch continues to provide the right fit.

A tight seal between the pouch and your skin is essential to good stoma care. If, for example, the area around your stoma changes from being regular to being more inwards, it may be time to switch to a convex pouch. You may also need to use additional supporting products to overcome any issues you may be facing.

Our online self-assessment tool, BodyCheck, will help you figure out your current body profile and whether your body has changed significantly. It has suggestions for the right pouches and accessories for you.

It’s a good idea to consult with your stoma care nurse about pouch fit and supporting products.

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Ballooning and pancaking are tricky issues that can occur when using a stoma pouch. But there are things you can do to prevent them from happening. Read more here about these issues and how to deal with them. Learn more about pancaking and ballooning

Coping with pouch issues, ballooning and pancaking

Ballooning happens when there’s a build-up of gas in the stoma pouch, making it inflate like a balloon. Pouches have charcoal filters that help deal with wind by deodorizing and releasing it from the pouch. But if the filter capacity cannot handle the gas produced, or if it has become moist or blocked by solid output from the stoma, gas build-up can occur.

What can you do to prevent ballooning?
One of the main ways to prevent ballooning is to minimise the amount of gas your digestive system produces. Chewing food thoroughly really helps, as can avoiding food and drinks that you know make you produce a lot of gas. These could be nuts, beans, fizzy drinks or sparkling wine.

If ballooning does occur, you can release the gas from the pouch in the privacy of a toilet, if you use an open bag or use a two-piece system. Changing the pouch when needed can also help prevent ballooning. Finally, it may be worth trying another type of stoma pouch and filter type.

Pancaking happens when there is a vacuum in the stoma bag and the bag sticks together. This stops the output from dropping to the bottom of the bag and can block the filter. There is then a risk that the pouch will be pushed off the abdomen.

What can you do to prevent pancaking?
Blowing air into the pouch before putting it on will help stop a vacuum from occurring. In addition, a drop of oil or lubricant in the pouch will help the output to get to the bottom of the bag.

Skin irritation around my stoma

Skin irritation around my stoma

Skin irritation around your stoma is usually caused by leakage from your ostomy pouch and the output from your stoma getting underneath the adhesive and onto your skin. It is uncomfortable and can stop your pouch from working well. Read more about what to do if this happens. The skin around your stoma

Skin irritation around my stoma

The skin around your stoma should look similar to the skin on the rest of your body. Immediately after you take off the adhesive, it may be a little pink, but if this doesn’t fade or if the skin is broken or damaged, your skin may be irritated.

What should I do? 

  • Remove the adhesive and check the back. Is there any sign of faeces or urine that could have caused the irritation?
  • Is there any irritation or damage around your stoma that corresponds to what you see on the adhesive?
  • How well does your pouch fit around your stoma? Is your skin exposed to the output from the stoma due to poor fitting? Assess the diameter and shape of your stoma to see if your template has the right size and shape. Use the release liner from the pouch as a guide and if needed, adjust the hole in the adhesive so that it exactly fits the diameter and shape.
  • What is the position of the stoma opening in relation to the surface of your skin? Is it above the skin surface, level with the skin surface or below the skin surface? If the stoma is level with or below the skin surface, or if it is situated in a deep fold, you may need a different type of pouch or accessories for your body profile. Try the Coloplast BodyCheck tool to check fit.
  • Has the adhesive eroded? If so, the pouch may have needed to be changed earlier. Try more frequent changes or consider an erosion-resistant adhesive if you’re not already using one.

If your skin irritation is caused by other reasons, consult your stoma care nurse or doctor.

Use our Ostomy Self Assessment Tools to find advice and solutions to common issues such as stoma bag leakage and skin irritation.


Lifestyle advice

Staying away from home and holidays

Staying away from home and holidays

Having a stoma needn’t stop you from travelling or start planning a holiday a few months after your surgery. Tips for travelling with a stoma

Holidays and travelling with a stoma

Having a stoma needn’t stop you from travelling. You may, however, need a bit of time to adjust to having a stoma and feel ready to travel. Start by taking short trips, and see how it goes from there.

Whether you are travelling by car, ferry, train or plane, it’s important to be well prepared. Pack a small, travel changing bag and keep plenty of extra pouches and any other supplies you may need with you.

If you are flying, make sure you pack plenty of supplies to take with you on the flight and for while you’re away, plus extra for contingencies. Divide up your supplies in different bags just in case your luggage is misplaced or your flight is delayed. Don’t forget that scissors aren’t permitted in hand luggage, so cut all of your bags to size before you fly.

Don’t be concerned about your pouch expanding due to the change in cabin pressure. Stoma pouches have been designed and tested to withstand pressure changes.

Travelling abroad
Before you travel abroad, check your travel insurance policy to see how your condition and circumstances are covered while away.

In warmer climates, you may perspire more and thus need to change your pouch more frequently. Always make sure your skin is completely dry before applying a new pouch ensure a good secure fit. If necessary, use a hairdryer to dry the area – but be careful not to have the heat setting too hot.

You may also be at increased risk of diarrhoea or dehydration. Drink plenty of water, and take rehydration sachets and medicine to treat diarrhoea, just in case.

Once you are on holiday, remember that you can still do all of the same activities you did before, and relax and enjoy yourself.

Holiday tips:

  • Store stoma pouches in a cool place
  • Use bottled drinking water to change your pouch when out and about
  • Apply suntan lotion after you’ve put your pouch on, as the creams may affect the adhesive
  • Seal and empty used pouches and dispose of them with normal rubbish
  • If you feel a bit self-conscious about leaving bags in your hotel room, use public bins
  • Before leaving for your vacation, find out where you can get professional healthcare assistance at your destination, just in case.

Find out more about travelling with a stoma

Going back to work

Going back to work

After surgery, it’s natural to want to get back to your everyday life as soon as you can. Going back to work may be part of that and, with a bit of planning, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be possible. Back to work after stoma surgery

Going back to work

Thinking ahead
After surgery, it’s entirely possible for most people to go back to work. But when and how you do this really depends on how you feel, the type of work you do, and the stoma operation you had.

Talk to your employer and discuss your options as soon as possible. It may be possible to return to work part-time; this could be particularly helpful when you first go back as you may still feel tired and need time to get used to new routines.

Try it out
A few weeks before you go back, do a few trial runs where you dress and plan your day as if you were going to work. Think about your diet and when and how many times a day you may need to change or empty your pouch. This will help you to establish routines and plan your day accordingly. Most importantly, it will make you feel prepared.


  • Speak to your employer as soon as you can
  • If possible, build up your working hours gradually
  • Check the available changing facilities at work
  • Pack a small changing bag that you can take discreetly to the bathroom
  • Do trial runs before you start work, thinking about diet and clothing etc.
  • If your company provides healthcare insurance, check whether your condition affects the policy

Coloplast Care

Sport & exercise

Sport & exercise

Learn why sport and exercise are good for both you and your stoma. Read more about sport & exercise with a stoma

Sport & exercise with a stoma

Exercising makes your everyday life easier to manage. Especially in the months after your surgery, where it can really help speed up the recovery, as the physical activity gives you more energy and makes you stronger and better equipped to cope with illnesses. Furthermore, exercise can prevent complications that may otherwise occur from sitting or lying down too long.

Being fit can make your pouch fit even better

A great side effect of exercising – and for many people the main reason for exercise in the first place – is weight-loss or weight-maintenance. Depending on the shape of your stoma a firmer, flatter abdomen could make it easier to get a tight fit from your ostomy appliance, thereby minimizing leakage risks. So by exercising and losing weight there is a good chance you can reduce some of the problems you might have otherwise had.

This is a preview only. For the full version, sign up to Coloplast Care


Travelling with an ostomy

Download your free travel kit, which includes a travel certificate, a packing list and plenty of tips to make sure your holiday goes smoothly.

Ostomy Self-assessment Tools

Find solutions for stoma problems such as stoma bag leakage or irritated skin.

When you have a stoma it’s not unusual to experience issues such as stoma bag leakage and irritated skin. However, most often they can be solved with little adjustments in your products and stoma care routines. Our Ostomy Self-assessment Tools will support you in finding the solution that is right for you.

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We're social!

Being part of an active community is a great way of staying in touch, sharing ideas and supporting others living with an ostomy. It's also somewhere we at Coloplast are participating more and more.

We are actively participating on social media and regularly take part in patient association days, where you can meet us face to face. To access our social media links, please click on the links below and follow. We look forward to hearing your views!

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