Although it’s normal to feel sensitive about how an ostomy changes your body, meaningful and fulfilling intimate encounters can still be part of your and your partner’s lives.
Communication and trust are at the heart of the healing process. It’s comforting to know that sexual relations will not hurt your stoma—or you. Share your feelings with your partner, and respond to his or her concerns as well. With time and a positive attitude, you can enjoy a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.
Tips to Enhance Intimacy
- Trust is key to true intimacy. The more you share about your ostomy, how you feel, and what you need, the stronger the bond between you and your partner.
- The old adage is true: The way you see yourself influences the way others see you. Take time after surgery to acknowledge the changes your body has been through, check in with your emotions about how you feel post-surgery, and share your feelings with your partner. You’ll find that acceptance of your body after surgery comes with time.
- A stoma does not have nerve endings; therefore, it does not transmit pain or other sensations, but it can bleed slightly if irritated or rubbed. Trying different positions can help you avoid any issues.
- The side-by-side position often works well for people living with ostomies because the pouch will fall to your side and not come between you and your partner.
- Empty your pouch before engaging in sex, and wear a small pouch. For intimate moments, special pouches are available that are designed to be smaller and less bulky.
- If your stoma makes you uneasy during intimate moments, cover your pouch with specially designed underwear, lingerie or pouch covers that can help take your mind off your ostomy and allow you to focus on your partner.
- If you use the pill, you may need to change your birth control—particularly if you’ve had an ileostomy. Oral contraceptives are often not absorbed with a shorter small intestine. Talk to your doctor or ostomy nurse about the best form of birth control for you.
- After surgery, many women experience vaginal dryness. Try a lubricant, or ask your doctor about other options to treat vaginal dryness.
- Some men may experience erectile dysfunction symptoms (i.e., achieving/sustaining an erection or inability to ejaculate) the first time they are intimate following surgery. Don’t worry or panic! This can often occur—it may be related to the surgery itself or to worries/concerns over being intimate post-surgery. If you experience continued problems maintaining an erection, call your healthcare provider. Most likely, there is a solution.