February is the month of romance. We all think of valentine, hearts and flowers, a time to be kind to each other and show those who you love…. you care. Being able to spend quality time together is important for a strong relationship to show your appreciation and affection for one another. Valentine’s Day can bring joy for many yet for some it can bring worries and fears especially for those who may be recovering from recent stoma surgery. The thought of being intimate with your partner and showing parts of your body which, you may prefer to keep hidden for a little bit longer, can be a daunting prospect.
Recovering from stoma surgery is a complex journey of self-acceptance and involves being able to juggle the demands of your new stoma by quickly learning the skills it requires. Body image and attractiveness is a huge part of accepting your new stoma. You may find that you are more self-conscious about how you look now that you have a stoma. But there are ways to help you adapt to these changes and be more body confident with yourself and your partner.
Here are some tips to help you adapt to your new body, to feel confident about how you look and overcome any fears you may have whether it is resuming your sex life with your partner or embarking on sexual relations with a new partner. Sexual relationships and being intimate are an important and fulfilling aspect of your life that should continue after stoma surgery.
How can stoma surgery affect my sex life?
Having any type of surgery can affect your sex life. It is an emotional time which can have an impact on your libido, and it is perfectly normal to not have the same desires as before.
Some types of pelvic surgery can impact on an individual’s sexual function. This may simply be due to not feeling ready and from the physical changes in your body following stoma surgery, but also there is also the physical impact of wounds, interrupted nerve and blood supply to the surrounding area, which can alter things. Some women can experience a loss of sensation, pain or vaginal dryness following stoma surgery. For those recovering from urostomy or perineal surgery, try to be kind to yourself and remember that depending on your reason for surgery, you may have even had your womb or part of the vaginal wall removed, which will impact on how you feel about being intimate again.
Men may experience some changes in their erections and ejaculation, this is due to nerves and blood supply involved potentially being bruised or damaged during surgery. This may improve in time and if it doesn’t, it is worthwhile speaking with your Stoma Care Nurse.
How to get intimate with your partner again?
For those of you in long term relationships, your partner will have been by your side during your illness and whilst you were having surgery, so they will know what you have been through. Communication is key. It is likely that both you and your partner may feel anxious. Your partner will have different worries, usually those of whether they might hurt you or your stoma. Talking things through and being gentle with each other is the best way.
For those who are single, it may present different concerns. When you tell someone special you are with that you have a stoma, will depend on how safe you feel and the type of relationship you are in. If you feel you can trust your new partner, talk to each other and be patient. Try to plan the conversation rather than announcing it at the last minute.
Intimacy can be gained by holding hands and kissing, feeling close to one another. Try to remain feeling relaxed and comfortable together until you both feel ready to take it further.
How to feel attractive and sexy with a stoma?
Make sure you wear something you feel comfortable in. Some women choose to wear a silky or cotton like vest top which covers their pouch and torso area. There are garments such as ostomy wraps, cummerbunds and other more daring outfits which are lacey and pretty and can be easily ordered online. Think of different styles of pouches too. You may want to wear a smaller pouch if you have an ileostomy or urostomy. For those with a colostomy you may want to look at a stoma cap. Just remember the capacity of these smaller pouches is far less, so make sure you empty your pouch first! For men, there is underwear available that offers discretion when wearing a pouch whilst still allowing intimate contact, such as underpants with extended crotch openings.
It is important to note that the stoma cannot be used for intercourse or penetration.
Worries and concerns you may feel:
Q: What if my stoma pouch becomes unstuck during sex?
A: If properly sealed, there is no reason why the pouch would become unstuck.
Q: Will the pouch chaff my partners skin?
A: It shouldn’t do as the covers on most stoma pouches are very soft. But if it worries you, look at material/cloth stoma covers for your pouch, or a cummerbund which will cover the pouch as well. Or perhaps look at changing your position during sex, such as side to side position.
Q: Will my partner smell any odour from my pouch?
Most pouches are made from materials that will keep in the odours so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are concerned there are nice deodorising sprays which you can spray into the pouch.
Q: I’m terrified in case my stoma makes a noise?
Try to relax and enjoy the intimate time with your partner, have a sense of humour as there maybe occasional unwanted noises from all of us from time to time!
Q: Can we have sex using my stoma?
The answer to this is a definite no. The stoma cannot be used for intercourse or penetration as this could cause major damage to the stoma and you may need further surgery as a result.