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Sexual health and intimacy with an ostomy

People with an ostomy may initially find intimacy challenging, but with patience and modifications, your sex life can continue as it did before.

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Intimacy is a state of mind

After ostomy surgery, depression, shame, and fear are common emotions, especially in the bedroom. Regaining a sense of intimacy requires openness, honesty, and trust with your partner.

Intimacy tips for men and women with ostomies

Start slow

Start off gently and with ease. Take advantage of romance and tenderness. Intimacy also means kissing, touching, making sex pleasurable.

Dress comfortably

Women sometimes wear a cami or tank that covers the midsection and ostomy bag. Pouches are made in different sizes, with smaller ones often used during intimacy.

Empty your pouch

Take a few minutes before getting intimate to empty your pouch. It will give you a little more confidence and ease your mind.

Keep the bag at bay

Fabric pouches made for ostomy bags help conceal and stabilize them, while also reducing chafing. Accessories like ostomy belts and belly bands further aid concealment and stability.

Stick to what you know

People with stomas have sex the same way those without stomas do. Common positions are usually possible, so stay within your level of comfort and preferences.

The stoma is off limits

Never use your stoma as an entrance for intercourse under any circumstances. The stoma should never be penetrated.

Be open to conversation

Ostomates may fear pain, leakage, being naked, and rejection. The more you discuss your ostomy, feelings, and needs, the more intimate the bond between you will be.

Be kind to yourself

After surgery, take time to acknowledge your body's changes and your journey. Regularly assess your emotional state and share your feelings with your partner. Give yourself time to accept and adapt to your body's new state.

Avoid bleeding

Stomas don't have nerve endings, so they can't transmit pain, but they do have blood vessels that can bleed when rubbed or irritated. Try different positions to avoid issues.

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Intimacy tips for women

Embrace open communication, self-love, and patience to navigate this new chapter. Explore comfort and confidence in your transformed body.

Considerations for women

Birth control

If you are using oral contraceptives, they may not fully absorb due to the shortened small intestine. Make sure to speak with your medical team about birth control.

Vaginal dryness

One side effect of colorectal surgery may be vaginal dryness. If you're experiencing this, try a good lubricant or ask your gynecologist what could help you best.

Decreased sensitivity

Some women experience decreased sensitivity in their clitoris due to surgery. If part of the large intestine was removed, the clitoral nerves may be affected.


Your initial tries at sex after surgery may not bring you to orgasm. This is normal. If problems persist, talk to your care team or gynecologist.

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Intimacy tips for men

Regain intimacy with open dialogue, patience, and understanding. Focus on feeling confident with your body, ensuring a comfortable and fulfilling experience.

Considerations for men

Erectile dysfunction

After surgery, an inability to ejaculate or sustain an erection during initial intimacy is common. If problems persist, discuss it with your care team.

Chemo can affect libido

If you are still in active treatment, including chemotherapy or radiation, it can have an effect on sexual desires and intercourse ability.

Surgery may impact nerves

Nerves may be damaged in surgery, and the ability to have an erection can be wholly or partially lost. Ejaculation is also dependent on the nervous system.

Give your ostomy space and stability

In the “man on top” position, lean a little toward the pouch-free side of your stomach to take pressure off of your ostomy. Try a cummerbund for ostomy stability.

Buy some new boxers

Intimacy can be affected by your self-confidence. If you're worried about your pouch showing, try wearing attractive boxers to help with cover it. You can also wear a tight-fitting tank to provide support and coverage for your pouch.

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