Your First Days and Weeks With a Stoma

Explore what you can expect when you wake up after stoma surgery, as well as during the next few days and weeks.


Learn about what to expect after stoma surgery.

In the first few days after stoma surgery, your focus will be on recovery. You may experience some anxiety as you adjust to your new life. However, if you have an idea of what to expect beforehand, it may help you mentally prepare for what’s to come.

Waking up with a stoma 

When you wake up after surgery, here’s what you can expect:

  • Your stoma may be swollen
  • You may be wearing a clear drainable pouch so the medical and nursing staff can inspect your stoma postoperatively
  • You may have drains and infusions, a urine catheter, and an epidural catheter attached to your body
  • Later, when your stoma is functioning and in preparation for discharge home, you will have the opportunity to choose and apply a pouching system that meets your needs

You may feel weak and emotional after your surgery. It is perfectly normal to feel this way. It takes time to recover. 

First days and weeks after surgery 

While you are recovering from your surgery, it may be hard to cope with and care for your stoma. But as your recovery progresses and you gain more strength, you will find it easier and quicker to care for it. 

The first few weeks after returning home, your daily stoma routine will naturally take more time. As you gain more confidence with your stoma care, your routine and pouch changes will become more efficient and add only a few minutes to bathroom visits. 

Your abdomen may still be swollen after surgery, so wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. Try moving around regularly. Standing up and walking around the house or garden will help with your general blood circulation and reduce the feeling of swelling and discomfort in your pelvis and lower limbs.

Activities to avoid

Herniation can be a concern following ostomy surgery. Certain activities can cause abdominal discomfort and increase the risk of a hernia around the stoma. Avoid the following activities in the early days after surgery: 

  • Mowing or cutting the grass 
  • Pushing a pram, pushchair, supermarket trolley, or wheelchair
  • Digging in the garden
  • Lifting anything heavy
  • Moving furniture or using the vacuum cleaner 

Click here to read more about preventing peristomal hernias. Your stoma care nurse can provide additional advice.

Also, you should not drive a car during the early weeks following surgery. The side effects of medication and anaesthetic can slow your reaction time and reduce concentration. Before driving again, you need to ensure you are fully capable of operating a vehicle safely. Seek guidance from your stoma care nurse. It is also recommended that you check with your insurance company to see if they have any specific guidance on returning to driving after abdominal surgery.

It's important to be patient with yourself

Your progress will go up and down. In the beginning, you may feel that some days you take two steps forward, yet the next day you take one step back. You may feel tearful, irritable, and snappy. This is a normal reaction following surgery and during recovery. Talk to your family and friends so they understand how you feel, which can help you reduce anxiety and better understand your emotions.