There is nothing more refreshing at this time of year than plunging into the water for a cool swim. The thought of submerging your new urostomy in the water can be a terrifying prospect for many new ostomates. Worries about possible leaks in the pool whilst wearing a small amount of clothing is the main concern for most ostomates. But with the correct supplies it can be a fun and a carefree experience!
Swimming pools are open again now, with limited times and the number of people restricted due to the current climate. This is a good thing if you fancy a peaceful swim without the hustle and bustle of hectic family swimming sessions. Or depending on where you live, why not try a swim in the local river for an outdoor swim experience which is becoming more popular, take a friend and choose a quiet and safe place to try a paddle or shallow swim to build your confidence.
What to wear in the water?
The most important thing is to check your current flange and pouch are waterproof. Most pouches are these days, but it does no harm to double check. For extra security, some people find that applying flange extenders around the edges of your flange may help with longer wear time in the water and peace of mind. There is also an option to try a smaller style of pouch if you prefer, whilst you are in the water, this is purely for discretion purposes and do be aware the smaller pouch may fill quicker and need emptying more often than your standard size urostomy pouch. Whatever pouch you are using, do not forget to drain it before entering the water.
Top tip: if you are unsure about your pouch in the swimming pool, give yourself a trial run in the bath at home. You can then see how the pouch behaves under water and feel confident that it is secure. It is also a good idea to try your swimming garment on in the privacy of your own home too before you venture out swimming in a public place, the changing rooms can feel quite overwhelming at the best of times.
Drying and changing your pouch after swimming:
Often ostomates use the disabled toilets to change in after swimming. Make sure you have a radar key which can be provided via your delivery company, so you access these rooms. Having a hairdryer close to hand whilst you are changing can help you dry the material of your stoma pouch. If you do need to change your pouch, then simply use the nappy or sanitary bin which should be to close to hand.
Finding the right swimwear is based on what feels comfortable and fits nicely depending on the position of your stoma and pouch. There are some companies online who provide tailor made swimwear outfits with ruching to the side of your stoma to help hide any creases where your pouch might be. Men’s trunks are designed slightly higher around the waist to incorporate any stoma pouches under the waist band and make them feel more secure. There is also swimwear available that has an internal pocket to hold your stoma pouch secure when swimming. However, special stoma swimwear can be expensive and is not essential. Any high street brand will do the job just as well and it pays to shop around and find a style you feel works best for you. Patterned swimwear, whether trunks or a costume, will offer more discretion than a plain fabric will.
Top tip: take a beach wrap/sarong to throw around your waist if you are feeling self-conscious. They are all the rage and so easy to hide behind!
Exercising after stoma surgery:
For the first six weeks after surgery, you will be advised not to swim. This is because your body is recovering from major abdominal surgery and both the incision wound and stoma needs to kept dry to heal thoroughly. Your Surgeon will tell you when the time is right. Swimming is a great form of exercise as you can start slowly and gently build up your stamina. As your wound/stoma heals and you are given the go ahead to swim, there is no reason why you cannot enjoy swimming with confidence now you have a stoma!
Important tip: Remember to enjoy yourself once you are in the water….at this stage, no one can see your stoma at all!