Part 3: Intimacy with an Ostomy
In two previous posts My Love Life as an Ostomate & How Having an Ostomy Affects Relationships, I spoke out for the first time about what it was like for me to have an ostomy in relationships. The physical aspect of intimacy is a little different when you have an ostomy but in all honesty, not much. There are some adjustments that need to be made but as long as you are honest with your partner about how you are feeling (both physically and emotionally), having an ostomy should not get in the way of having a fulfilling intimate relationship with your significant other.
One question I get asked a lot is if intercourse is painful since I do know many doctors tell female patients it can be. This is a very individual question but for me, the answer has been never. I was 15 when I had my entire large intestine removed and 16 when my Jpouch, rectum and anus left me. At that time, I had never been intimate with someone but since I have been sexually active, aside from the first few times (which I believe is relatively normal for any girl), it has never been painful. I imagine in some cases, this type of surgery can cause the internal structure of your vagina to be a little different, causing some pain, but I personally have never experienced it.
I will say that just like with abdominal exercises, be in tuned to your body because you may be slightly more prone to hernias. In which case, you may need to figure out different positions with your partner which is not that big of a deal. Just something to be aware of.
There are various types of appliances, undergarments and lingerie out there for ostomates. Most ostomy appliance companies have “intimacy pouches” which are also known as closed end pouches since they don’t have a clip and are smaller than the ones you would wear on a day to day basis. The benefits of these are that it makes your ostomy look more like a bandage. A drawback is if you have fairly liquid or continuous output, it may fill up fairly quickly forcing you to need to change it. If you usually wear a two piece appliance, most of you know that it isn’t a huge inconvenicne to take off one closed end pouch, throw it away and put a new one on.
However, even though these pouches are meant for this intimate time, they aren’t my preference. I take my regular ostomy bag, tape it up so you can’t see the clip and nothing is hanging down, and go about my business. Then afterwards, I remove the tape, and the bag lies exactly how it was beforehand. This is a personal choice and if I had a colostomy, I probably would feel very differently since the output isn’t as constant and unpredictable. I do know so many people who prefer the intimacy pouches so again- it is all about your comfort and what works for you and your partner.
The undergarments and ostomy specific lingerie is something I haven’t personally used yet. I am sure I will eventually and even have a couple pairs from Vanilla Blush. I do recommend browsing through their website, along with Awestomy to see if you think some of these might be good to incorporate into your love life. If not, you can always wear the underwear on a regular day since I hear they are pretty comfortable and convenient! There is a little pocket to tuck your pouch in which I think is pretty cool.
There are so many facets that go into being intimate with an ostomy. I think the anxiety leading up to it is worse than the act itself. It is nerve-wracking to say the least since everyone wants to feel sexy and carefree during this time. Having an ostomy hinders that a little bit but as you become more comfortable with your situation and your confidence improves, you will adjust and pretty much forget you have one. I know that probably sounds hard to believe if you aren’t at that stage of acceptance, or in a relationship at this time, but trust me when I tell you – with the right person, the fact that you have something on your stomach won’t make any difference at all.
You and your partner need to trust each other and communicate all feelings- not just good ones. If something is making you uncomfortable, or you think it may be too much pressure on your abdomen, aren’t sure how your body will react given your ostomy, speak up. I know it is easier said than done because we don’t want our significant others thinking we have a million rules or issues in this area but once you kind of iron out some of the logistical details, you both will most likely forget it is even there.
If you are feeling self conscious, talk to your partner about it too since I am sure your significant other can put your mind at ease in that department. Communicating those very valid emotions will allow you both to have a deeper connection, and will give even more insight into what you go through as an ostomate.
No one is making love to your ostomy. Anyone who you are intimate with in this way cares about you as a person and should look at the bag as something that is helping you to achieve better health than you were able to otherwise. If you don’t find this sense of compassion or understanding from your partner, then it might be time to think about the relationship a little more.
It is also important to understand that this is a new area for your significant other as well since more likely than not, you are the first person he/she has been with who has an ostomy. Allow them to ask questions and answer them as honestly as you can. I know it is difficult because you want this person to still think you are attractive and discussing your ostomy bag isn’t really high on the list of romantic discussions. But it needs to be talked about; Not every time you make love but in the beginning. Once your partner is comfortable and has a better understanding of what is going on with your body, the two of you will be able to have a relatively carefree intimate relationship.
This is a process that doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be okay with who you are first and foremost and once you are, I promise your love life will fall into place. It takes time to reach a certain level of acceptance but know in your heart that you will get there. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since your ostomy surgery or what other people with this type of surgery are able to do. All that matters is your journey.
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