A Guide to Intimacy and Sex When Have Irritable Bowel Disease
For patients with irritable bowel disease (IBD), whether ostomy or not, physical intimacy can be an intimidating prospect. It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there, no holds barred!
A lot of people with IBD specifically are nervous about their symptoms or bags preventing them, and their partner, from having enjoyable sex.
But physical intimacy is a wonderful thing and you shouldn’t miss out due to the disease — there are plenty of ways to find pleasure while living with IBD and/or an ostomy! Here are some tips on how to approach intimacy for a more enjoyable experience:
Experiment. Whether this is with ostomy-friendly lingerie or positions that make you feel sexy, trying out new moves in the bedroom can help you and your partner find more enjoyment in physical intimacy. You can also try out lube if you experience performance anxiety or vaginal pain/dryness to help avoid discomfort. There are so many different ways to feel confident and find pleasure that it’s important to experiment and find what you like best!
Be honest! Communication is key to developing the emotional intimacy that makes sex the most enjoyable for many people. Your disease and symptoms are a part of you and whoever you enter the bedroom with should understand and love these parts of you too. Keep in mind, however, that some people don’t know what to expect when it comes to IBD or ostomies, so an honest conversation about how things work can help relieve any pressure or uncertainties so you can both enjoy the moment more fully. And honesty shouldn’t stop there. You should always be open about your turn-ons and turn-offs so you can have a pleasurable experience.
Empty your pouch. This is a more practical tip than anything else. Emptying the pouch will prevent you from getting distracted in the heat of the moment, by things jostling, the risk of a leak, or unwanted smells. Try to plan ahead so you can excuse yourself before things move too far along.
Don’t forget about your partner. Try to remember that it takes two to tango and your partner likely has their own insecurities. Encourage them to communicate their thoughts, whether they’re about you or themselves: do they have questions about IBD? Do they have any disorders they want to discuss? Many men (especially those with IBD!) have their own issues in the bedroom that may require them to take medication before sex, like for erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation. Some need a little extra time for those meds to kick in leading up to the big event. They may want to discuss these issues with you beforehand to alleviate their own fears, so be sure you’re creating a comfortable space to listen as well as speak.
Don’t force yourself to do something you’re uncomfortable with. Keep in mind that intimacy is supposed to be fun: a moment shared between you and someone you care about. It should not, not, not be something that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. If your IBD symptoms are making you feel too fatigued, uncomfortable or disinterested in sex, don’t force yourself to keep going: it can lead to painful sex and deter you from seeking out intimacy again. Consider slowing things down or stopping altogether. A loving partner will understand and should never push your limitations.
Final tip: Be sure you are enjoying every step of the way during intimate moments! Although it can sometimes be clumsy or awkward, intimacy and sex are great ways to find pleasure, connection and fun. Check in with yourself and your partner to be sure you’re both having a good time.
Have you had any interesting intimacy success or horror stories? We’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below!
Capri is a health-focused content writer with a personal interest in educating others about life with chronic illness or disorders. She tries to use her research to help those living with diseases, like IBD, embrace their differences and lead healthier, more confident lives. When she’s not writing, she’s most likely hiking with her dog.