written by D. Fechner RN, CWOCN
Intimacy and an Ostomy
Let’s talk about one of the things that no one wants to bring up…..but what everyone is thinking! Am I right?!? One of the biggest concerns for new ostomates is how the ostomy will affect their relationships. It’s natural to feel stressed about possible relationship issues related to your ostomy. Some common questions are: Will my partner look at me differently? How will it affect my dating life and/or sexual relationships? How will the pouch affect my sex life? The good news is intimacy and sex is still possible after having ostomy surgery!
The most important thing to remember is there is more to intimacy than just sexual relationships. Being intimate with your partner is about a deep level of familiarity, closeness and trust between two people. Being open and honest with your feelings will help your partner understand what you are going through and create a deeper bond. It’s very important to talk and share about your feelings and not hold them inside.
If you are dating and you anticipate things getting more serious, make sure to be open and honest with your partner. Be upfront about what they can expect with your body. Explain why you had the surgery and why you need to wear a pouching system. Explain to them how this has changed your life and situation for the better so your partner understands. This will create a level of trust and intimacy.
If you are in a committed relationship, make sure to include your partner as soon as possible. Bring them to all your pre-op appointments where the topic will most likely get brought up. You can talk to the surgeon about how it will affect your body together. Most couples feel this actually brings them closer. Involve them early in pouching changes in the hospital so they know what to expect. Attend a pre-op education class to learn about all the information upfront. If you learn all this upfront, it lessens the shock and fear that comes with the unknown.
Here is a list of suggestions to make intercourse more comfortable following surgery:
- Empty the pouch prior
- Make sure all connections are secure and locked
- Buy special clothing options to make yourself feel more comfortable such as silky tops, wraps, cummerbunds, and/or specialized underwear
- Consider a fabric pouch cover to prevent rubbing on your partners skin
- Smaller pouches and pouches with opaque covers will conceal contents in the pouch
- You don’t need to change anything with positioning-do what you are comfortable with
- Take things slow and remember sex is about your comfort level
- Never use the stoma for intercourse
Remember, the most important thing is to be proactive, open and communicate. Support groups are also available after surgery and a good place to share your concerns. Your WOC RN is also a great resource to help with clothing and accessory options. The United Ostomy Association of America (UOAA) has wonderful written information and resources about intimacy and sexuality on their website: http://www.ostomy.org.
Meet other people talking about living with an ostomy on Mayo Clinic Connect. Join the conversation, share experiences, ask questions, and discover your support network.