ostomy surrounded by roses

Getting Intimate With an Ostomy

Resuming a normal sex life after surgery can be intimidating for both you and your partner. After the intensive surgery that your body has been put through, it’s normal to have reservations about initiating sexual activity again. It's normal to worry that sex may cause discomfort or hurt the stoma, loosen or break the seal of your bag, and it's perfectly normal to feel insecure about your physical appearance.

Adjusting to life after surgery

After surgery, there will be an adjustment period as you heal and get used to your new stoma and bag. Be patient with the process and pay attention to how your body feels, you will know when the time is right to begin intimacy again. When you decide it is the right time to resume sexual activity, take it slow, and remember that your body has undergone significant changes that may make intercourse challenging at the beginning.

Communicate with your partner about how you are feeling. Even though things may be difficult in the beginning, rest assured that by communicating with your partner, having a little patience, and listening to your body you will still be able to have a rich and fulfilling sex life, even after surgery.

What women with an ostomy can expect after surgery

After surgery, women may experience some common side effects, such as vaginal dryness and discomfort during sex. If you experience this, try a lubricant or speak with your doctor about other options. You can also try different positions to alleviate discomfort and remember to communicate with your partner about how you are feeling.

Another thing to note is that women that use the pill as a form of contraceptive may need to change their method of birth control. This is particularly true if they have had an ileostomy, simply because oral contraceptives are not often absorbed through the small intestine. Speak with your doctor or ostomy nurse about other birth control options that may be better suited for your needs.

What men with an ostomy can expect after surgery

After surgery, men may experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction. This includes difficulty achieving or sustaining an erection, or inability to ejaculate. These are common side effects that may happen immediately after surgery. It may be related to the surgery itself and will subside as your body heals, or it may be due to worries and concerns you have about being intimate after surgery. Speak with your doctor or healthcare provider about possible medications if you experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction after surgery.

Trust and communication during intimacy

Trust and communication is the key to true intimacy. Before engaging in sex, talk to your partner about how you are feeling. After surgery, it is common to feel self-conscious and anxious about your new physical appearance. Voice these concerns to your partner.

Trust and rely on each other to build each other up with love and support. Having open communication with your partner will relieve a lot of stress and anxiety you both may have about being intimate with a stoma. If you are with a new partner, tell them about your stoma before the clothes come off.

Tips for intimacy with an ostomy

There are a few tips to help you and your partner resume a healthy sex life:

  • Empty your bag – First, try to make a quick stop in the bathroom beforehand to empty your pouch. Sometimes the moment may strike, making it difficult to empty your pouch beforehand, but whenever possible, empty your bag first. This will help reduce the chance of a leak and will bring you and your partner closer together without worrying about having a full pouch between you. If you plan ahead, you can even try wearing a smaller, more discrete bag.
  • Conceal the bag – If you are concerned about your physical appearance, try wearing an ostomy belt, intimacy wrap, bandeau, or lingerie. This can help conceal the bag, as well as hold it in place.
  • Deodorize – If you are concerned about the smell, you can also use deodorizing drops or spray, even though you will rarely notice any odor from a closed bag.
  • Try an antidiarrheal – If you are concerned about your pouch filling during sex, you can try taking an antidiarrheal, like Imodium, 20-30 minutes prior to intimacy to help slow the production of output. In the beginning, you may lose some of the spontaneity, but with a little practice, you’ll soon be back in the swing of things.

Will sex hurt with a stoma?

If you are concerned that sex will hurt you or your stoma, know that this is not the case as stomas do not have nerve endings. It is common for ostomates to have a satisfying sex life, sometimes even more so after surgery than before because in many cases, you are feeling better than you ever have.

While you shouldn’t engage in intimacy immediately after surgery as your body will take some time to heal, after a few weeks you can slowly begin to initiate intimacy once again. Talk to your doctor or surgeon about your healing process to determine when it will be the right time for you to resume intimacy.

Intimacy after surgery is possible. You can still be beautiful, desirable and sexy even with an ostomy. Celebrate the fact that you’re healthier and feel better than you ever have before. You may even find that your relationship with your partner has grown even stronger since surgery because of the support and comfort they provide. Your ostomy can give you a new lease on life, enjoy it.

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