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Periods after stoma surgery

Apologies gentlemen, but this one purely for the ladies.

For some of us, the ‘time of the month’ requires battening down the hatches, copious amounts of chocolate, pain killers and your best friend, the hot water bottle.

The majority of ladies who took part in my polls have IBD. The conclusion for us is that having both a stoma and IBD can make period week a living hell. There is currently no medical proof that having this illness and having a stoma makes your periods worse, but I believe it is something that should be researched.

My periods have changed since my Barbie-butt surgery and I will explain that later further down this blog post.

Post-operative periods

Every woman is different regarding how soon their periods will resume post-operation. For some, this will be four to six weeks after the surgery. Often, this period is either lighter or heavier than before and will start to regulate normally within two to three cycles. If you’re not wishing to fall pregnant in that time, please practice safe sex.

It takes a while for your body to get back to its usual rhythm, post-operation. I am a hormonal wreck and I can get rather weepy. This does settle down and for those of you experiencing this, please do remember you have had major surgery and your body just needs time to rest and recuperate.

You may notice a fair amount of bloating in the lead up to your period. For most of us, this starts seven to 10 days pre-period. The symptoms are as follows:

  • Tiredness or trouble sleeping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Spotty & oily skin
  • Greasy hair
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in appetite
  • Feeling anxious, irritable or upset
  • Bloating
  • Cramps

For most of us, we also have food cravings pre-period. Typically, that means we crave absolute junk food, such as:

  • Chocolate
  • Doughnuts
  • Salty crisps
  • Burgers
  • Ice cream

Your body pretty much craves every fatty food known to man. The reason for this isn’t widely known or medically-backed, but it is most likely due to the hormones dipping and the foods mentioned above reacting with your cortisol and serotonin levels to make you feel better after eating them.

Stomas and periods

I ran several polls on this. Out of 100 people who took part, 78% said it affects their output and 22% said that it does not.

You may notice that your stoma site possibly swells slightly during this time and that your output is runnier and more frequent.

Here are a few tips to follow during:

  • If your output is runnier and more frequent, then use a gelling agent to help bind the output. Jelly babies or Haribo are brilliant to help bind the stool, prior to it coming out. They also slow down the output.
  • Barrier rings will help to stop the baseplate breaking down and will also cover for any lumps and bumps if your tummy is swollen.
  • You may be craving both sugar and salt. This could be an indication of dehydration, so adding re-hydration sachets or St Mark’s solution to your fluids will help combat the cravings and dehydration.
  • You will crave more fluids during this time; squash, peppermint tea or herbal teas can help you stay hydrated. Plus, peppermint tea is good for helping with bloating and cramps.
  • Exercise can help. You may not feel up to it, but exercise can help to ease those aches and pains, along with releasing endorphins which will boost your mood.
  • Hot bath, hot water bottle or a heating pad. Never underestimate the power of the hot water bottle. Its good for easing the aches and pains. I have had mine taken off me, but that is purely due to nerve damage and not being able to feel when I have burnt myself.
  • Plenty of sanitary towels and period knickers.
  • Listen to your body – if you’re craving sleep, then sleep. There is nothing worse than a woman with PMT and sleep deprivation.
  • If none of the holistic approaches work, then please take pain killers to help combat the period pains.

Issues post Barbie-butt surgery

Being nearly five months post-op and having recovered for the best part, I have noticed a massive change in my monthlies. Not to be overly graphic or candid, but I have noticed a rather lacking flow to my new cycle. My periods have always been horrendous, ever since the birth of my daughter in 2009. They were heavy, incredibly painful and would leave me laid up for three to four days at a time. The expense of pads and knickers on a monthly basis, due to flooding, were awful.

I was due to have a partial hysterectomy, but my pelvis is matted scar tissue and has been described as trying to get through concrete, so this was abandoned during my surgery and was I resigned to dealing with horrendous periods until I hit menopausal age.

‘Barbie-butt’ surgery for women carries certain risks. Our reproductive organs are held in place by our large bowel, which acts a wall to support the uterus, cervix and Fallopian tubes. Once the large bowel has been removed, then your reproductive organs can fall back into the cavity left behind. I know mine have tilted back and the smear test couldn’t find my cervix, so I have to be referred to the gynaecology department. When they attempt to do my smear test again, they will most likely need a mining lamp and a safety rope to pull themselves back to safety. Apologies for the crassness, but I have to laugh and make a joke of it. I don’t recall my surgeon advising this could happen prior to my surgery. However, at the time I was more focused on signing the consent paperwork to remove parts of my womb and imagining a partial period-free life.

A good percentage of the ladies that got back to me have all expressed concern that they were not advised that this may happen. They then proceeded to have the mother of all panic attacks when that time of the month happened during taking a wee and thought they were, at the time, bleeding to death.

With the uterus tilting back, it acts as a plug. That plug is released when you are in a seated or a squatted position carrying out your bodily functions. Yes, it’s not normal and there may be possible ways of resolving this, but that requires more surgery, mesh implants and further recovery time. If you have read any news articles regarding mesh implants for prolapsed or tilted back wombs, then you will probably prefer to remain this way, unless you are suffering from regular infections.

I will admit that it’s currently saving me a fortune on sanitary towels and I am not having to buy new period knickers every couple of months. It is slightly disconcerting that I am not at my usual flow, but I am in the best possible hands and will have to see what the gynaecologist has to say.

Many thanks for reading,

Louise X

 

*Disclaimer*

This blog post is intended to give advice to ostomates. The information given is based on Louise’s personal experience and should not be taken as clinical advice. Each ostomates needs are unique to them and their stoma care routine. Please consult with your Stoma Care Nurse before undertaking any changes to your stoma care routine.

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