Having ostomy surgery can, naturally, be so daunting, then you've got all these life elements to think of that increasingly creep back in as you recover, including your sex life.
Being concerned about intimacy is normal and you may have questions running through your head such as "will my partner find me attractive any more?", "will my sex life be the same as before surgery?" and "will having sex hurt me?"
There is good news in that most people can have fulfilled sex lives after surgery but that everyone is different and like a lot of things, sex is something that is very individual to each person. There is no set way to go about your sex life and problems with sex don't necessarily come from surgery. If there is something you are worried about, it's always best to seek medical advice.
Relationships and sex go hand in hand so it's important to explore that in this blog post and to acknowledge that intimacy is also so much more than sex.
Ant's top tips for intimacy
In this blog post, Ant talks us through his top tips for intimacy as a male living with an ostomy.
Amy's intimacy tips as a woman living with an ileostomy
- Always get advice from your medical team - Professionals such as your stoma nurse will be able to advise as to when they feel it may be okay for you to have sex again after stoma surgery. They will be able to give you general guidelines, advice and answer any questions you may have. Remember that talking about sex is part of their job, so it won't be an alien concept to them or something you should be embarrassed about. It is a natural part of life.
- Pretty underwear - This can make the world of difference to your confidence in the bedroom and can actually be really transformative. You can even wear some gorgeous high-waisted underwear sets or team up your underwear with our support bands to keep your bag secure and in place. Our support bands can also be worn by themselves. Then again, if you are happy to let your ostomy bag hang loose, that's also okay!
- Communication is key - As with pretty much any aspect of a relationship, communicating your needs and feelings with your partner and letting them communicate theirs is very important. It's important that you are with someone who has an understanding that things may be a bit trial and error or different for you after ostomy surgery and that there may well be a period of settling back in to intimacy and finding what works and what doesn't. Some people use a "safe word" which is one word them and their partner choose together to say during intimacy if they do not want to continue so that their feelings are communicated quickly and easily.
- Intimacy is so much more than sex - Intimacy isn't just physical and also isn't just about having sex or engaging in sexual activity. Intimacy is usually categorised into several categories and examples of different types of intimacy are Emotional and intellectual. Something such as letting your guard down and being vulnerable discussing something deeply special to you can be a form of emotional intimacy. An example of intellectual intimacy is having meaningful conversations with your partner. You may decide to stay up late one night, talking about anything and everything. This is a good example of intellectual intimacy and builds on intimacy as a whole.
- Physical intimacy doesn't always have to lead to sex - There can be quite a pressure in today's world about this when in reality, there is absolutely nothing to say that physical intimacy of any form has to end in sex. Giving each other a cuddle, a massage or watching a film snuggled up to one another are examples of physical intimacy, as well as a simple kiss to show affection to your partner. Brushing someone's hair or putting a relaxing face mask on your partner are also other examples of intimacy that are a great way to make each other feel good without things having to lead to sexual intimacy.
- Think of your ostomy as just part of you & take things step by step - It doesn't define you, it is just a part of you. To someone who matters, whether this be a new, casual or serious partner, it won't matter that you have an ostomy bag and the right person who is worth your time won't mind. It's a good idea to take things step by step and to not run before you can walk, so to speak.
- Empty your ostomy bag before you have sex - To some people who have had surgery, this can be a bit of a mood killer, especially if you are nervous anyway and are fighting really hard with yourself to stay "in the zone." From experience, having output in your ostomy bag isn't the worst thing in the world, but it can make things easier and make you less conscious of your bag if there is very little output in it to think about. You can also then fold your bag upwards in half to help make the bag more discreet and less likely to flap around. On the other hand, some people find in the end that they don't think about their ostomy bag whilst having sex with a trusted partner and just let it do its thing, but this can take a long time to happen for some people or other people may need to empty. It's a very individual preference and you should always do what makes you feel comfortable.
- There are so many options available to help with problems you may encounter - Decrease in libido, reduced ability to feel sexual pleasure, dryness and what kind and extent of ostomy surgery you've had can be factors that all impact your sex life. The good news is that there is plenty out there to help. It's always a good idea to speak to your stoma nurse or doctor for advice about these things. Medications can also impact sexual desire and some positions can be less comfortable for some people after surgery, but this is something that can be experimented with with the right partner.
- Final thoughts & a very important one at that - Your stoma should never be used for penetration during sex. This is a common question that we hear increasingly in today's society. Doing this will most likely result in damage to your stoma and will probably lead to more surgery.
Disclaimer: As always, this post is from our Social Media & Marketing Specialist, Amy's, experience of living with a permanent ileostomy, Crohn's Disease and from what she has researched. Nothing in our blog posts should be taken as medical advice. It's always best to consult a medical professional if you have queries or concerns.
Other questions explored
- What does an abnormal ostomy look like?
- What are the ostomy stickers for that come with ostomy bags?
- Why would a child need a stoma?
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