Early days

Waking up with your stoma

Whether you are expecting it or not, waking up for the first time with a stoma may be daunting. You are likely to feel uncomfortable and sore and your stoma will be swollen initially.

This is expected after major surgery so please do not worry. The surgery you have gone through will affect you both physically and emotionally and it may take time to come to terms with the major changes to your body, but this is completely natural.

During the first few days after your surgery you should expect to feel tired and emotional, and you may also find your body image and confidence has been affected.

These feelings are normal and are natural responses to dealing with the stress of your illness and surgery. At no point should you be afraid to open up about how you are feeling to your partner, family, Stoma Care Nurse (SCN) or close friends.

Acknowledging these feelings will help you emotionally and aid your recovery. As well as family and friends, please remember that your Stoma Care Nurse is also there to help and support you.

Going Home with your stoma

The operation you have had involves major abdominal surgery and as such you should make sure you give yourself enough time to recover.

Generally it takes around 8-12 weeks, but every person is different and you should not try and do too much before you are ready. In your first weeks at home you should focus on resting and getting your strength back gradually.

Accept offers of help from family and friends, allow yourself to nap when you need to and listen to your body if you feel tired.


After your operation your abdomen will likely feel tender so you might be more comfortable initially in loose fitting clothes. Once healed you should be able to wear your regular clothes as normal.

For anyone living with a stoma concerned about wearing their current clothes, there is a wide range of ostomy-friendly clothing and support garments available online.


Following your operation it is important that you check with your GP or Consultant before you start to drive again. It is also important to check your insurance policy as conditions may vary depending on your insurer.

Do not drive until you have been given the authority to do so. Failure to comply with this advice may invalidate your insurance and could also be harmful to your recovery.


When you’re feeling strong enough, gentle exercise is a really good way of aiding your recovery.

It is really important that you do not attempt to do too much too soon, but a short walk, even just around the house or garden, will be really beneficial to you. As your strength returns, consider setting yourself a target of doing a little more each time.

Please remember that however far you go you will also have to get back, so do not tire yourself out by walking too far! Walking with a friend is advised as not only does it make the walk more interesting but it is safer, especially should you feel unwell.

If you do go out walking alone then be sure to let someone know where you are going and how long you intend to be out.

TIP: For your safety, always take a mobile phone when you leave the house.


An important part of the recovery process after major surgery is making sure you eat and drink enough to help your body repair itself. You might not feel up to eating much initially, but smaller meals and snacks eaten regularly throughout the day will give your body the nutrition it needs to aid your recovery.

Building up your appetite gradually is much kinder to your digestive system in the early stages of recovery. To encourage your recovery, a varied diet that includes each of the different food groups in moderation is the best option.

Keeping hydrated is also a really important part of the recovery process so be sure to drink plenty of fluids. Please be mindful not to drink too much before meals as this can curb your appetite.


During recovery you should avoid any unnecessary lifting. However, if you do need to lift anything then you should place your feet shoulder width apart with one foot in front of the other, keep your back straight and bend your knees.

Your Recovery

You will probably be daunted by the prospect of recovering from your surgery and managing your stoma at the same time. Please be reassured that feeling this way is totally natural.

The information provided is intended as a guide; your recovery is unique to you and how you feel each day after your surgery. You know your body best and you should always do what is best for yourself.

If you have any questions before your surgery or during your recovery please do not hesitate to contact your nurse.

Your First Pouch

When you wake up from your surgery it is very likely that the pouch you are wearing will be clear. This is so the nurses can monitor your stoma during the first few days of your recovery.

Your stoma may not function for the first few days after your operation, which is perfectly normal. Once your stoma becomes active your nurse will begin teaching you how to change your pouch.

The thought of changing your pouch yourself might be frightening, but the nurses will spend as much time with you as you need until both you and they are confident that you can change your pouch independently.

Before your operation your nurse should be able to provide you with a pre-operative pack that gives you tools and advice to practise applying and removing pouches.

If you would like to practise before your operation please request a pre-operative pack from your Stoma Care Nurse.


Before surgery Find out more
Living well Find out more

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