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Intimacy with an Ostomy

Laura Cox
Ostomy Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
08/26/15  11:57 AM PST
intimacy with an ostomy

Intimacy and intercourse are a part of the human experience. It can be an extremely beautiful experience shared between partners, but it can also feel extremely vulnerable. Add a body altering surgery, and the change in body image to the mix, and thinking about intimacy with an ostomy can almost feel uncomfortable. That is a completely normal feeling, but with a little preparation, pep talk, and open communication, intimacy can still be a wonderful, fulfilling practice between partners.

Communication with a Potential Partner

Initial communication about your ostomy with a potential intimate partner should happen before the clothes come off. I would suggest going on a few dates before talking about the ostomy so the person can get to know you on a deeper level first. There’s no rush to tell a potential partner, but if you feel that you would rather tell them sooner than later, go ahead! Whatever feels most comfortable and natural for you is what should be done.

When you feel it’s the right time to tell the potential love interest about your ostomy, approach the topic with confidence. If you seem confident and happy to have an ostomy, odds are your partner will be happy you have an ostomy, too. No matter who I’m telling about my ostomy, I always try to put a positive spin on it. I’m never trying to evoke sympathy, but trying to help someone understand my way of life. Talk about why you have it, how you got it and what having an ostomy means for your body.

When I told my significant other about my ostomy, I started by talking about my experience with being dangerously sick with Ulcerative Colitis, being on all sorts of harsh medications, not being able to live the life I wanted to and eventually needing surgery to save my life. I then told him my colon was taken out in 2011 and I was left with a little bit of my small intestine sticking outside of my abdomen and that a bag surrounded it. He then (very tactfully I may add) asked, “So you poop in the bag?” I answered with a straightforward, “Yes.” He looked at me, kissed me on the forehead and said, “Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m glad you’re still here, and I’m here to stay.” Since that day he has been one of my biggest supporters, my ER companion, my light on a dark day and my advocate.

He took it upon himself to learn about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and ostomies. We don’t let it become a huge part of our relationship, but it is one of the many parts. When I’m feeling well, our relationship has many moving parts and my ostomy doesn’t come up fairly often (we got all of that talk out of the way at the beginning of our relationship). When I’m not feeling well we make sure our communication is open and honest. When my stoma makes a funny noise, we laugh. When I don’t feel well enough to go out, I tell him to go out and have fun, but that I’m not feeling up for it (although these nights usually turn into movie and cuddle nights). When my abdomen is too sore for intercourse we talk about it. When I need emotional support, I ask for it.

Not all cases have gone as well as my current situation. I try not to take offense to someone losing interest after I share with them that I have an ostomy. I simply think of my ostomy as a way to weed out the people who wouldn’t have worked anyway. The nature of having a chronic illness (or just being in any relationship) is that you need someone to support you and cheer you on when you’re not feeling well. Finding that person may take time, but you are so worthy and deserving of love and support.

Communication with your Current Significant Other

If you were already with a significant other before having surgery, he or she probably knows how sick you have been and will be thankful for life-changing surgery and for your health. Still, make sure to have open, honest conversation about your ostomy, how you and your partner feel about it, what things will be the same and what will be different after your ostomy surgery. Try to understand that your partner is adjusting too.

You can ask open-ended questions like, “How do you feel about my ostomy?” or, “How has my ostomy changed our relationship?”.

I talked to a woman who asked her husband how he felt about her ostomy, expecting a negative reaction. To her surprise he said “I love it, because it allows you to live your life more fully and we can actually go out and do things without having to worry where the bathroom is.”

Tips for Intimacy with an Ostomy 

After you’ve phrased your explanation positively to your partner, intimacy may progress at the normal speed. When it is time for an intimate moment, there are some tips that can make you feel as sexy as ever.

  • Empty your pouch prior to intimate moments
    • This will make it more comfortable for both partners.
  • Use deodorizing drops or spray
    • Even though there generally isn’t an odor that comes from a closed pouch, if using deodorizing drops makes you feel more comfortable, I would suggest it! Any way you can make yourself feel as comfortable as possible will allow you to forget worrying about your ostomy and enjoy the experience.
  • Use an opaque pouch or a pouch cover
    • This just allows you to hide the contents of the pouch.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take Imodium, Beano, GasX or comparable products about 20-30 minutes before intercourse (if anticipated)
    • This tip is mainly for ileostomates. Imodium may slow output and allow you some time to have an empty pouch.
  • Try out some of the available products that are made to conceal your ostomy during intimate moments
    • These products conceal and secure your ostomy, making you feel confident and unencumbered. These products include:
      • Wraps
      • Bandeaus
      • Lingerie and underwear
    • You can find these products online at:
      • Awestomy
      • OstomySecrets
      • Vanilla Blush, etc.
      • www.betweenyouandme.com.au

Intimacy can usually be just as enjoyable (if not more enjoyable because you are healthy) with an ostomy as before. Usually intercourse will be pain free, but if you do experience continuous pain during intercourse talk to your doctor. You may also find that your relationship will become much closer and stronger because you have to talk about health and support each other.

The right person will love and support you for who you are, not what you have. You can help by loving yourself and loving your body for what it is – a beautiful, resilient body that has struggled and fought to keep you alive.

Wishing you the best of luck! -Laura Cox

For more information, see related articles and ostomy resources here:

Serving Medicare Ostomates Nationwide
Dear Laura, I wear a two piece ostomy bag. I need help with concealing an ostomy bag. When I move around my shirt hikes up and the tip of the bag peeks out from under my shirt.
Tom
Hi Tom, I have a few suggestions that may help!
 
First, I'm wondering if a stealth belt would be a good option for you. This is a black belt that you can conveniently tuck your pouch...


Comments

5 Comments

  1. Jacquelyn
    Posted October 3, 2015 at 7:04 pm PST

    I appreciate this web site. I’ve been monagamiss for almost 10 yrs due to my illiostomy. For the most part I would like a ostomy connection date site just for ostomy users. We my find each other compatable and always be comfortable, because we both have something in common. That would help me and maybe others as well. I’m female and would like to date men who live with ostomies.. I’m sure other people fell the same way. I have not had luck with intamentcy due to this bag. I fell a compatable site would help a thousands of us who live with ostomies. Smile. Would love to get feed back to hear how other’s feel about this.

  2. Posted October 5, 2015 at 8:55 am PST

    Hi Jacquelyn,

    There actually are a couple of dating sites for people with ostomies out there. I can’t tell you much else other than they exist, since I’ve never used any of them personally. The 4 I know of are Ostodate, Meet An Ostomate, Ostomates Dating and Bag a Date. If you type any of those into your search engine, you’ll be able to find them and sign up!

    That being said, you do not have to limit yourself to only dating people with an ostomy (but there is also nothing wrong with being interested in dating someone with an ostomy). I wrote about intimacy and ostomies and how I’ve approached telling partners that hadn’t heard of an ostomy before dating me. If you’re interested, here’s the link! http://www.shieldhealthcare.com/community/ostomylife/2015/08/26/intimacy-and-an-ostomy/

  3. Julie bird
    Posted June 29, 2016 at 3:20 pm PST

    Thanks for this. I’ve found that someone in the healthcare field is so understanding. Others not so much

  4. Posted June 30, 2016 at 2:29 pm PST

    I’m glad you enjoyed this! Finding people in the healthcare field that you feel comfortable with and putting your life in their hands is so important!

  5. Sharon
    Posted May 29, 2018 at 12:16 am PST

    Glad I discovered your site, Laura. Had my first ileostomy when 16. Was ill w/ UC for 3 years before the surgery. It wasn’t easy on my parents; as they felt guilty. Afterwards rarely dated. Had a few significant relationships. Two knew about my ostomy. After marrying at 32, I had my ostomy redone so it was continent. No longer wore an outside pouch.
    For those ostomates who are considering I Koch Pouch or a continent ostomy, I would not recommend having the internal option. Think this surgery is mostly done today in NY, FL and CA. Having this type of ostomy has caused me so many health issues: pouchitis, bleeding, bloating with pain, have to watch what I eat. Since I use a catheter several times a day, food gets caught in the eyelets (or holes) of the catheters. I have to remove the catheter all remove food that has plugged up the catheter. Doing this daily takes a toll on me. Can’t eat crispy veggies and fruits without grinding, pulverizing all foods. With an external ostomy these things are not an issue. It’s not a complex issue. You can eat whatever you want. For intimate times, I have worn a patch of the stoma. If wear these pads much like bandaids but more sticky. I can wear bathing suits with ease. BUT it is not worth it for feeling sick and has set me up other autoimmune problems. I’m now 70 yo. It would be difficult to remove the internal pouch to be removed and covert to wearing
    an outside appliance. Docs don’t want me to go back to the standard ileostomy.
    Hope this helps some who may be considering converting their ostomy.

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