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Sex & relationships

For many people with a stoma, one of the biggest worries is about how others will react and how it could affect their intimate relationships. If you are feeling a little bit anxious after your surgery then try not to worry – this is completely natural. In fact, you have a lot to be excited about. For some ostomates, having a stoma enables them to get back to doing the activities they love, many of which might not have been possible during their illness. 

There is no reason why your stoma should affect the quality of your relationships or your sex life, in fact, it may even make your relationship even stronger!

Opening up to your partner about your stoma

Following on from surgery it is your decision who you tell about your stoma, and when you feel ready to do so. If you were already in a committed relationship before your stoma surgery, it will not come as a surprise to them at all as they will have shared the surgery with you. However, for many ostomates, it can be a scary thought to have to tell a new partner. If you think that a relationship is going to turn intimate quite soon, then it’s a good idea to let your partner know.

It’s a well-known fact that in any relationship communication and trust are always key. In this case, the same principle applies. Some ostomates feel the need to spend some time building up their confidence before they feel comfortable even showing their stoma to anyone else.

As we’ve already mentioned, communication is vital. If your partner is unaware of your stoma, it’s well worth planning a short explanation for yourself. Once you’re happy with this, you will know when the time is right to speak to your partner. Remember, your stoma bag is a life-saving piece of equipment that you need not be ashamed of. Once you have accepted it yourself, it will be much easier for others to be comfortable with it too.

Of course, it’s never going to be an easy thing to talk about, but the majority of people will be fully understanding and supportive. If a person appears to become uninterested after a conversation about your stoma, the chances are that the relationship would never have worked anyway.

If you do get back on the dating scene post stoma surgery, it’s a good idea to be open and honest with them about it in order to avoid any awkwardness or surprises later on in your relationship.

Sexual relationships

Despite many ostomates being concerned about how it may affect them, it is possible to have a normal and healthy sex life after stoma surgery. Communicating with your partner and ensuring you are both comfortable and relaxed is key to making sex an enjoyable experience for both parties following stoma surgery. 

There are some things you can do to prepare and feel more at ease, for example emptying your stoma bag before sex can help take away any worries you may have and help you feel more relaxed. You may also consider using a stoma belt to hold your bag close to your torso to stop it from getting in the way.

As long as you make sure you’re completely comfortable and communicate well with your partner, you’ll be able to enjoy a normal sex life. 

Contraception

It goes without saying that if you’re sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant, you need to be using some form of contraception. However, for people with stomas, it isn’t quite as straight forward as that since some types of birth control simply won’t be as effective.

Simply put, stoma surgery can sometimes alter the anatomy of the uterus. As a result of this, diaphragms, IUD or coils aren’t always suitable. The contraceptive pill may not be suitable either for some women with ileostomies since there is evidence that the medication passes through the digestive system before it’s completely absorbed in the body. 

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about the subject to find the best type of contraception for you.

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