Of all the surgical procedures and medical devices available, few are more stigmatised than ostomy surgery.
An ostomy is a surgical opening made on the abdomen – that brings part of the intestine and ureter out of the abdomen. Its purpose is to create a new pathway for the excretion of stool, urine and gas. The new opening on the abdomen is known as a stoma.
Here are a few facts about ostomies. 
Fact #1: Ostomies are pretty common
You're not the only one. Many people have them. There are many reasons a person might have ostomy surgery and need to wear an ostomy bag. For example, maybe they injured their bowel or have a severe infection. Other reasons include colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
Fact #2: Ostomies are not obvious
If you thought ostomies were uncommon, this might be why. Wearers can easily conceal their ostomy bag beneath clothing (including swimwear). And they come in different sizes. So, while you may use a larger one overnight to prevent sleep disruptions, smaller ones can be worn throughout the day and changed more frequently, allowing for even more discretion.
Fact #3: Ostomies can improve quality of life
In most cases, an ostomy won’t interfere with your daily activities. You can still travel, exercise, swim, and do what you love. During ostomy surgery, a surgeon will create an opening in your abdomen, called a stoma, to access a portion of the intestine. Waste can then exit the body through the stoma, where an ostomy bag collects it. As a result, ostomies can make it easier for some people to eat healthily and live comfortably. So, ostomies improve rather than impede their quality of life for many patients.
Fact #4: Ostomies don’t smell
No, they don’t smell. Ostomy bags are designed to be odour-proof.
You can throw out some ostomy bags after a single use. And you can reuse others—just empty the waste into a toilet, clean the bag, and re-attach it. Whichever bag system you choose, changing or emptying your ostomy bag often can help prevent leaks and ensure that odours stay trapped within the bag. You can even add a deodorising tablet for added peace of mind.
Fact #5: You don’t have to change the way you eat
An ostomy may actually make it easier for you to enjoy the foods you love.
During your recovery from surgery, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet. But in the long run, having an ostomy shouldn’t inhibit your food choices. Many patients with ostomies can digest food more easily post-surgery.
If you’ve recently had ostomy surgery, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about the best foods to eat while you heal. You may want to begin with a liquid diet and re-introduce foods one at a time until your body adjusts to your new digestion process.
Fact #6: Ostomies can be temporary
Ostomy bags are not always permanent. Depending on your condition and your surgery, you may only need to use an ostomy bag while your bowel heals—that could be for just months or weeks. However, you may need an ostomy for years, long-term, or permanently in some cases. Check with your doctor to determine what your condition or surgery recovery will require.
Fact #7: You don’t need a new wardrobe
Ostomies can be hidden under most clothing. Though loose or high-waisted clothes may be more comfortable, you can still wear form-fitting clothes with an ostomy. You can even use special accessories, like bands and belts, to keep your bag in place and hidden. So, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to buy a lot of new clothes to cover your ostomy—unless you want to.
Fact #8: You can still date
Romance is possible with an ostomy! But, as in any partnership, communication is essential. You may want to have one or more conversations about your ostomy before you begin or re-engage in intimacy. And you may find that you and your partner prefer different activities and positions with the addition of your ostomy bag. So, work together to find what works for you to have a safe and fulfilling relationship.
If you or someone you love is undergoing ostomy surgery or living with an ostomy, knowing the facts can help fight the stigma surrounding these life-saving devices and prepare you and your loved ones to live a whole, healthy life.