The short answer is yes. Yes, you can get pregnant after having surgery to get an ostomy …and I now can say this from personal experience.
(This post was written shortly after I became pregnant with my first child.)
It makes me very happy to say that it is still possible to get pregnant with an ostomy! However, at the same time, (and this is the long answer) I must stress that my experience is not necessarily typical and is not going to be the same as many others. I had been married for two years when I had my first surgery to removed my colon, so I knew that kids were something that my husband and I wanted in our future. I was scared of what having this surgery might mean for that. So of course, I discussed it at length with my surgeon both prior to and after my surgery. He told me that having the surgery should not affect my ability to carry a child, however, it could make it more difficult to conceive in the first place. I believe it has something to do with scar tissue from the surgery and also, just anytime you go moving things around in your stomach/gut-area it can affect the way your body functions. I was blessed to have had both of my surgeries done laparoscopically, so it was not nearly as invasive of a procedure as it is for many.
Now, I won’t get into the actual “getting pregnant” part, because I’m sure we’re all familiar with the process, but I did want to go over some of what it was like mentally trying to do so. I did my best to adhere to the advice that many of us have heard before: Hope for the best; plan for the worst.
When my husband and I decided we wanted to officially start trying, I was scared. Of course it’s scary thinking about how your entire life is going to change by having a kid, but I was more scared that it might not happen for us. Or it might not happen for us for a long time.
Something I didn’t realize prior to us trying to do this is how much waiting is involved. You have a very small window for it to happen, and then you have to wait two weeks to find out if it did, and if it didn’t, you have to wait two more weeks to even try again. It’s a daunting task for any woman… ostomy or not. Then after you finally find out, the doctor likely won’t see you until 8 weeks. Then you go back every 4 weeks after that, but you may not get another ultrasound until 20 weeks. So it’s extremely frustrating to not know what’s going on most of the time.
And unfortunately, there’s not a lot that we can do to make it easier. If it doesn’t work, it’s unlikely that you will know if it’s due to your surgery or if it could be something completely outside of that. In short, if you have an ostomy and want to become pregnant, there’s not really anything different that you need to do outside of the advice given to all women. (Things such as eating healthy, taking vitamins, tracking your cycle, stopping smoking or drinking alcohol.) With knowing that, we feel so blessed that it didn’t take us years of trying or any outside intervention.
After finding out, when I first called the doctor to set up my first appointment, I wasn’t sure if I would be classified as “high-risk” or not. (To be honest, there was a part of me that wanted to because when you are, you get extra ultrasounds and a little more attention.) But I was told that I was low-risk and that I should not need any extra attention than other women. And that’s really an amazing thing, even if I do not get as many ultrasounds.
From here on out, I’ve been told that nothing about this pregnancy should be different from any normal pregnancy, except there is a little extra concern about the fact that my intestine does attach to my stomach and therefore can potentially get in the way as my belly grows. That’s not something I need to worry about just yet, but I will have to be conscious of it a little later on.
I have not seen my GI surgeon yet, so I don’t know yet if there is anything else I need to know or do from his perspective. I will need to speak with him about whether natural or c-section would be the best option. I have known women with ostomies who have gone both directions, so I will be interested to hear his opinion.
I wish that I had some great advice that would work for everyone. I know there are many women who have had this surgery and others who have had a difficult conceiving. I would encourage you to speak with your surgeon or your GI. They may be able to provide some more options or perhaps refer you to a fertility specialist earlier.
In the end, I do hope I can provide some encouragement that it does happen, and just because you have had or are having this surgery, it does not mean you have to give up on your dream of becoming a Mom.
For those of you who are considering trying or have previously had a child, do you have any advice for others hoping to conceive? Did your doctor give you any other options? How long did it take for you to conceive?
Here are some more details on what my experience was like during the first trimester.