Handling Social Interactions After Stoma Surgery

You may have worries or concerns about going out when you have had your stoma. These feelings are completely natural and you may find these simple tips useful as you plan your activities.


Learn how to handle social situations after stoma surgery.

In the days and weeks after your ostomy procedure, you may naturally wonder how others will react to your new stoma. Because you may have felt shocked the first time you saw it, you may worry that others will feel the same way if they know you have one.

Usually, worries like this are exaggerated. Two keys to successful social interaction are an honest examination of the common concerns about having a stoma in public and preparing strategies for social situations.

Social interaction concerns

After surgery, you may feel as though your stoma is a significant obstacle to interacting socially. There are several possible reasons for this. For example, you may be concerned about odour. This is not usually a problem, but it is easy to worry about what others will think. If your skin barrier is securely sealed around your stoma you should not experience any problems with odour. However, if you do feel that you can identify an odour, it is a good idea to discuss this with your stoma care nurse.

When your stoma is new it will feel like a real physical presence, and you may worry about your appearance or about being stared at in public. The reality is that in most cases people will be unaware that you have a pouch under your clothes. If you feel like it is visible, talk to your stoma care nurse as this may be due to excess wind.

Planning for social interactions

In your social world, there are people close to you who know all about your illness, operation, and recovery. There are others who are not familiar with the details, but who will note that they did not see you for a while at work, at the club, or elsewhere. Some people will be nosy; others will be genuinely concerned and interested. Either way, you’ll have to have some interaction that may make you anxious.

Decide how you will talk to people close to you, casual acquaintances, and new encounters.

Some tips to consider:

  • Understand that you do not need to be completely open with everyone
  • Choose how much you want to tell, and to whom
  • Be straightforward with the people closest to you, since they probably know most of the details of your stoma surgery anyway 
  • Decide exactly what and how much to say to those not very close to you, if anything at all

Above all, remember that you are in control in any social situation, and that you can decide how much to reveal. That fact alone may ease your stress so you can be confident and relaxed.