I have debated for a while about writing a post on sex. I know my parents and my parents-in-law and even my grandparents read my blog (I’m giving you fair warning that this is one post you can skip!), but I know that sex is an important subject when it comes to ostomies. It’s probably one of the first questions you have when you know you are going to have surgery. I know it was for me. You wonder not only about the “how is this going to work?” but also the “how am I going to feel?” It’s also a hard question to bring up for many people, so I figure… let’s talk about it! And we’ll talk about it online so you don’t actually have to bring yourself to ask about it.
Like I said, one of my first questions once I decided to go through with the surgery was, “how is this going to affect my sex life?” Thankfully I had a surgeon who this wasn’t his first go-round and he knew it was probably a question I had so he brought it up without making me have to. He told me that it would not change anything majorly, but it would be an adjustment, especially after getting the rectum removed. The rectum is right up against the vaginal canal and provides support, so no longer having it made things feel different. Not bad different, just… different.
Let me first go back to before my surgery. Sex has always been a little difficult for me, as I’m sure it is for many people living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. There are so many concerns when living with a bowel disease. I was worn out easily, so I wasn’t always up for it. My stomach might be hurting and I’d be concerned about upsetting it even more. And then there is always the worry that when having sex, something might sneak out. You know… from behind. That was always a major worry. And it led to me tensing up a lot and trying to make sure that I was holding everything in, which didn’t always lead to a pleasant experience. But I love my husband and I know that sex is an important part of a healthy, long-term relationship. Still, sex, a lot of the time, became more work than fun.
So I was nervous giving it another go after my surgery. I knew I would no longer have to worry about the whole holding-it-in thing, but other concerns come along with it. Will I feel sexy? Will the bag get in the way? Will it hurt?
It was maybe 4-6 weeks after my surgery that we decided to give it a try. ( I did have a completely laparoscopic surgery, so if you had an open surgery, it could be a different experience.) If I’m going to be honest here, it was difficult at first. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it felt different. No, it was not fun. I am very glad that I have an understanding husband who is willing to be patient and let me take it at my pace. I would say it took at least about a month to start feeling comfortable again. So don’t get discouraged if it’s not what you think it will be right off the bat. Give it time. Take it slow.
Unfortunately, when I had my second surgery, we had to start all over again… again. It was my second one that removed the rectum so it felt even stranger than before. Plus, I still had a wound that was very close by that was trying to heal up and forced us to take things even slower. It was probably closer to six months until I felt like we were really back to the way things should be.
Right after my surgery, I was scared that I would no longer feel sexy and that my husband wouldn’t look at me the same way. Let me just say once and for all, I was wrong. It wasn’t immediate, but once I knew how much better I was feeling and got used to the idea of having an ostomy and a bag, I felt even sexier. I wasn’t worried about what might happen during sex and I was free to enjoy it the way you’re supposed to.
The bag does get in the way sometimes, though, so I wear one of my wraps to keep it in place. I also don’t have to worry about it getting pulled on it in any way. (These are the basic ones that I use from Target, but Awestomy and OstomySecrets have some fancier ones.) The wrap also helps me to not even consider my bag during those times.
I know that I have a different story from some in that I was already married when I got an ostomy and my husband was there to help me make the decision and to actually go through all of it with me. But for those who are not in the same situation, I would encourage you to not let your ostomy hold you back. I believe you will find the other person won’t be bothered by it and will more than likely be supportive. I mean, it’s sex. Why would you let something silly like a bag on someone’s stomach get in the way of that?
But in the scenario that someone does take an issue with it, then be honest with yourself, is that really somebody you want to continue a relationship with? If they have a problem with an ostomy bag, then they probably have other issues, as well. It’s their problem. Not yours.
In the end, even though there was an adjustment period and some initial concerns, I have found that sex can be just as, if not even more, satisfying and enjoyable with an ostomy than without (especially if you are dealing with some of the same issues I was beforehand). Don’t let it hold you back. You are still a beautiful/handsome/sexy person with or without a colon and with or without an ostomy bag. So enjoy it!
Have you found a difference in your sex life since getting an ostomy? Have you had any challenges? Have you been able to overcome them? I know this is entirely from the woman’s perspective. Are there any men willing to share their own experience?