Once fully recovered from a successful colostomy surgery, one of the main concerns new patients have is how the interactions with the people in their lives and with new people they meet might be affected. Sex and intimacy after a colostomy is something most, at first, would like to avoid. Body image issues may arise and the loss of sexual confidence or of not “feeling sexy” with a stoma may add to a new patient’s angst. That first reaction from their significant other or partner is a thought that a lot of new patients dread. Younger women with colostomies often are concerned about how it will affect their ability to get pregnant and have children.
The good news is that all of these thoughts are quite normal and have been experienced by numerous colostomy patients. Having a stoma takes some getting used to and a period of adjustment, but having a happy and healthy sex life, having children, and not feeling so self conscious about your new stoma is something that is definitely attainable.
Telling Your Partner
For married couples or partners that have been together for a while, telling your partner about your stoma may be a non-issue since they would have been by your side the whole time during the surgical process. They are fully aware of the situation and what a stoma is and looks like. Even if this is the case, there is still a period of adjustment for your partner as well.
There may be a few things you both could do to aid in making this adjustment go a little bit more smoothly. First, don’t rush things. Slowly letting both yourself and your partner get used to the new stoma can be beneficial in the long run. Allow some time for adapting without putting extra pressure on the both of you.
Involve your partner, if you can, in stoma care lessons that may be provided by the ostomy nurse. Let the nurse teach both of you how to change pouches and care for your colostomy. Letting your partner get familiar with your stoma in this way may help both of you come to terms with the fact that while a stoma is something new, it is not something to be afraid of or avoided.
Let your partner talk to the doctor or ostomy nurse alone to ask any questions that they may have that they might be too embarrassed to ask in front of you. Getting answers for themselves to these types of questions can help them become more comfortable earlier in the process. They often are concerned about hurting the stoma or their partner and asking some awkward questions can help ease their mind.
New patients that are not married often feel as if their stoma is going to be an insurmountable obstacle to finding someone. Fear of rejection once someone that you are interested in finds out that you have had a colostomy and have a stoma and have to wear different appliances is often too much to think about. Chances are is that it may indeed be harde and that someone you may be getting to know might not know how to respond at first. Understand that by telling someone else of your condition that there is always a chance that they will not respond how you would like. Keep in mind that they may need some time to adjust to the idea of your stoma just as you had to adjust to it after your surgery. Your stoma is just a part of who you are. If you do not let it define you then others will likely follow suit.
Honesty is always the best course of action. Being up front with a new, or potentially new partner, is always a good idea. It will probably always be a scary proposition to explain your situation to new sexual partners, but being honest about it early minimizes the risk any dramatic, sudden surprises in the bedroom. Talking about the condition that caused the need for your surgery is usually a good ice breaker.
Having Sex After A Colostomy
Once fully recovered from colostomy surgery, sexual activity can usually resume and be enjoyed as it was before surgery. You may want to talk to your doctor to get clearance before doing so and to receive any precautions that may pertain to your particular case. Having a stoma should not prevent normal sexual activity, but there are a couple of things you can do to make things more comfortable.
Make sure to empty your pouch before having sex. Not only is it practical but it can ease any worry about possible leakages and make the activity more enjoyable. Once empty, it can be folded and secured to the body to prevent it from moving all about.
Use some sort of cover on your pouch. A decorative pouch cover can not only make it more appealing to the eye and less clinical looking, but it also prevents the pouch material from rubbing up against you or your partner’s body that may cause chaffing or scratching. It can make things a lot more comfortable for both parties.
Sexual Issues For Women
A lot of women, understandably, are concerned about how colostomy surgery will impact their ability to have children. Normally, it should have no impact. It is quite common for colostomy patients to conceive and give birth and have healthy families. Other factors may interfere conception and giving birth, such as other health conditions, but as always, this is something that you will want to discuss with your doctor before and after your surgery.
Colostomy surgery may cause some problems with the actual act of having sex for some women. Some of these may include:
- The void left by partial or full colon removal may cause some shifting of the uterus. This may cause some pain during intercourse.
- If the rectum has been removed during surgery, that part of the body may remain tender for an extended period of time making intercourse painful or highly uncomfortable
- Vaginal dryness may also be a side effect that causes some discomfort.
Some of these issues can be alleviated by using lubrication, in the case of dryness, or experimenting with different body positions. Any extreme pain should be reported to your doctor or nurse.
Sexual Issues For Men
Impotence is the most common sexual problem for men after colostomy surgery. Don’t be alarmed if this should occur as this may be just a temporary situation. If this should happen make sure to report it to your medical team. They may be able to offer solutions and advice to help overcome this setback in your recovery.
Try Not To Obsess
Humans are sexual beings. It is normal to want to have sex and be intimate with others. Having a stoma should not prevent this from happening. Any questions, problems and obstacles in your recovery should always be addressed by your doctor or nurse. Keep them informed and don’t be afraid to lean on them for advice.
All the fears, worries or doubts that you may have following your surgery are going to be quite normal. Just about everyone who has had a colostomy has gone through this. Developing and building back up your self-confidence after your surgery may seem like an impossible task, but it is something that can be achieved. The key is to not let your stoma become what you are about. If having a stoma is not a big deal to you, then others will surely pick up on this and it can positively influence your interactions with sexual partners. Of course, this is something that will take some time, but having a positive attitude can go along way to getting back to your normal sexual self.