Apart from the everyday health grievances that affect many people’s everyday lives, if the average woman was asked about the more serious health matters that might concern them, the likely answer might be obesity and diabetes, or perhaps breast cancer.
One health issue which is perhaps least discussed relates to stomas and the navigating of daily life following stoma surgery.
What is a stoma?
A stoma is essentially a surgically created opening formed on the lower abdomen which connects to the digestive or urinary tract and diverts either fluid or solid bodily waste out of the body.
There are a number of conditions that might lead to the need to perform stoma surgery, and these are primarily based on diseases of either the bowel or the urinary tract. These can include cancers but also arise from inflammatory diseases and obstructions. In these cases, ostomy surgery may be performed to remedy the situation. It may be permanent or temporary, dependent upon the condition which led to it.
What are the stoma types?
There are three main ostomy types – colostomy, ileostomy, and urostomy. The first two relate to the bowel, with the colostomy diverting the large colon and the ileostomy diverting the smaller colon to the abdomen opening.
The urostomy relates to the urinary tract and may be performed after a bladder removal.
The emotional side of an ostomy
Given the nature of the surgery, an ostomy potentially presents an emotional hurdle to overcome, in addition to the mental and physical elements. There are natural questions as to what life may look like following the surgery. On the positive side, a vast number of women who have undergone the surgery procedure report a sense of empowerment and positivity.
A recent study showed that, with familiarity and the sense of gaining control over the stoma that came with it, a sense of connection with their body’s development naturally led to a feeling of empowerment.
In short, many people developed fears as to what an ostomy might entail, which were quite simply not grounded in reality. Professional support throughout the lead-up to surgery and the rehabilitation process afterward goes a long way to assuage these fears and misconceptions.
Many women have apprehensions about what life with an ostomy bag might look like, and quite naturally, many of these concerns revolve around the question of body image.
Essentially a low-profile stoma bag is attached to the abdomen to collect waste material. This bag is discreet and can be worn and concealed under everyday clothes. Filters in the bag mean that the attachment is odorless.
Having recovered from the initial surgery, even the most active of people find that life returns to normal. Activities like work, exercise, socializing, and sports can continue as normal.
These are perhaps the greatest stated concerns for a person confronted by the possibility of a stoma operation, and many go on to report that the reality of the situation turned out to be quite different from what was anticipated.
Sex and intimacy
Naturally, the question of maintaining a normal sex life with an intimate partner is often raised. The good news is that stoma surgery does not generally limit normal sexual activity. Having fully recovered from surgery and moving past feelings of self-consciousness are perhaps the greatest ‘limitations’. The same old rules apply – good communication and trust with intimate partners are the greatest contributors to a healthy sex life.
Life in all its forms goes on naturally following stoma surgery.