Living with a stoma (urostomy)

After surgery to remove your bladder, you might have a small, spout like hole called a stoma on your tummy (abdomen).

Your urine now comes out through the stoma. So it might take some time to get used to it.

Your nurses show you how to look after your stoma in hospital. You'll also have a stoma nurse who can help you to look after the urostomy.

Changes to your bowel movements

You may notice that your bowel movements change after surgery to remove your bladder. They may become looser. This can improve over time but sometimes it doesn’t. Your bowel movements change because the surgeon removes part of your bowel to create the urostomy. So your bowel is shorter than before.

You might need medicines to help control your bowel movements.

Getting used to the changes in your body

It can take some time for you to come to terms with the changes in your body. But it helps to have supportive family and friends. If you find this difficult, you might need some help from other people.

You might worry about how your stoma will affect: 

  • your job
  • your relationships
  • your sex life
  • sports and hobbies

With time you will find that there is very little that you can't do, that you could do before your surgery. You will become more confident about living with a stoma. Your stoma nurse will be able to help you overcome some of your fear and build up your confidence.

Your job

Having a urostomy should not affect your working life, unless your job involves heavy types of manual work such as digging.

Ask your stoma nurse for advice if you are unsure about this.

Your relationships

You will probably worry about how the stoma will affect your relationships, whether with a partner or with friends. You might have practical worries about the bag leaking or being noticeable. Or you may have emotional worries about how your friends or partner may react.

Stoma appliances are very well designed. They're not easily seen through your clothes and they shouldn't leak. Talk to your stoma nurse if you have problems with your bag. A different type of bag may suit you better.

You will probably find that your fears disappear if you can talk openly to friends and family about your surgery and urostomy. Most people understand and are very willing to help if they can.

Your sex life

After bladder surgery you might have some physical changes that can affect your sex life.

Sports and social life

Your stoma shouldn't stop you enjoying your favourite pastimes.

You can exercise and swim. You can wear a smaller urostomy bag while you swim if you prefer. Or you can wear a waterproof dressing. Your stoma nurse can tell you about this. 

There is no reason why you shouldn't drink alcohol with a urostomy. But bear in mind that the more liquid you drink, the more urine you will pass. So you might have to get up in the night to empty your bag.

To get a good night's sleep it can help to avoid drinking large amounts of any liquid later on in the evening. You can also attach a night drainage bag to your day bag so that it holds more urine.

Cancer Research UK nurses

For support and information, you can call the Cancer Research UK information nurses. They can give advice about who can help you and what kind of support is available. Freephone: 0808 800 4040 - Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
Last reviewed: 
01 Jul 2019
  • Stoma-associated problems: the important role of the specialist nurse.
    A McGrath
    British Journal of Nursing, 2017. Volume 26, Number 5, Pages 30 - 31

  • Sexual Problems of Patients with Urostomy: A Qualitative Study
    D Kandemir and U Oskay
    Sexuality and Disability, 2017. Volume 35, Issue 3, Pages 331 – 340

  • Urostomy Association website
    Accessed November 2018

  • Living With An Urostomy. Frequently-asked questions from The British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS)
    British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS), 2017

  • Life with a urostomy: A phenomenological study
    G Villa and others
    Applied Nursing Research,2019.  Volume 39, Pages 46 – 52

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. Please contact with details of the particular issue you are interested in if you need additional references for this information.

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