When you have to get a stoma or ostomy bag as part of your colorectal cancer treatment, it takes some getting used to. The surgery may change the way you feel about yourself, your body, and sex for a while.
If you’re curious about sex and intimacy after an ostomy, it’s a good sign that your body and mind are ready to move forward. These tips will help.
Take Your Time
Surgeons often recommend waiting for 3 weeks after the surgery, but it’s up to you. Some people head back to the bedroom as soon as they can as a way to connect with their partner and their pre-surgery life. Others may not think about it for months or years. It’s most important to be comfortable with your body and confident with your stoma first. Once it feels like part of you, the rest will follow.
Things May Be Different
After ostomy surgery, common sexual side effects may include erection problems, vaginal dryness, not being able to reach orgasm, and pain. But those problems may be temporary. So if you still have any of these issues after the first few times you have sex after your surgery, tell your doctor. Some medications can also lower sexual desire and cause ejaculation and erection issues.
Prep Your Pouch
You might feel less spontaneous about sex when you have a pouch. Before you head behind closed doors, empty and clean your pouch, then make sure the seal is tight. If it makes you feel better, use paper tape for an added layer of security. Once you do that, focus on being present in the moment, and not on the pouch.
Ease the Odor
If you’re worried that the smell of your pouch might be a distraction, try a deodorizer. Various brands make them in tablets, drops, and sprays. There are also pills you can take to curb the odor of your own waste. See what your doctor recommends.
What to Wear
Ever heard of a “passion pouch?” It’s smaller than a regular bag and has a closed end instead of a drain. (You’ll need to switch back to your regular pouch later.) You can also use a pouch cover to camouflage things a bit. You can find clothing that gets you in the mood and hides your pouch at the same time. There are specialized boxer shorts and cummerbunds for men and crotch-less lingerie that help hide a pouch, for instance.
Get creative with positioning that doesn’t hurt and keeps your pouch out of the way. Try the side position on the same side as your stoma.
Talk It Out
Just like in any relationship, communication is key. As much as you’re comfortable, share any fears and physical issues with your partner. Talk about what you like, don’t like, and what you’re willing to try. Being open is just as important as being a good listener when it’s your partner’s turn to talk.
When it’s time to stop talking and start trying, it’s not unusual for anxiety to follow you into the bedroom. Take a deep breath and remember, nothing’s sexier than a good attitude and a sense of humor about whatever comes up along the way.