When you were talking to your surgeon about getting an ostomy, hopefully they told you you can do anything with an ostomy that you did before. Dating and sex are included in that blanket statement. Along with thousands of other people, I’m living proof that you can meet someone after you’ve had your surgery and fall in love/be fallen in love with. No relationship is perfect, but I’ll tell you one thing – none of the imperfections of my relationship have been because of my ostomy. If my vague story isn’t enough to convince you, I encourage you to read It’s In The Bag and Under the Covers by Brenda Elsagher. It’s a collection of stories told by ostomates and their partners about dating and intimacy and it’s really encouraging. All that is proof that you can date and find love with an ostomy, but despite that, dating can be scary in itself and you’ll be doing it with a big “secret” to reveal at some point so here are some tips and things to remember about sharing the news. I compiled this from my own experience as well as from conversations with ostomate friends and strangers (I asked for advice in some social media based ostomy groups). I asked people their opinions on when you should share the news and what kinds of tips they had, as well as how they would do it. Here’s what we all came up with:
Things to Remember:
When to share the news:
Everyone has different opinions about when the ostomy “secret” should be revealed and have their reasons:
How to share the news:
Obviously when and how to share about your ostomy is a personal decision, but I hope these perspectives help you a little in the dating (and friendship) world. Bottom line, don’t feel like you have to act any differently than you would have before your ostomy. If things don’t work out because of your ostomy, thank it, because you want to be with someone who is as strong as you and can be supportive.
The UOAA also put together some fact sheets per gender that really briefly summarize the intimacy guide I mentioned above. If you’re a guy, check out the Male Sex Fact Sheet. If you’re a girl, check out the Female Sex Fact Sheet.
Remember to keep a positive attitude in the bedroom and include humor in your life. If your stoma farts or you have a leak in bed, try to laugh about it with your partner. Life happens to everyone, ostomy or not, and you don’t always have control over what is going to happen, but you do have control over how you react and laughter is the best medicine.
Communication in the bedroom is really important. Tell your partner what positions are more comfortable and experiment with different positions to find the ones that work for you. Let your partner know that your ostomy doesn’t make you too fragile, they’re might be worried about hurting you or your ostomy.
With every surgery comes possible complications. These are some of the risks ostomy related surgery can have on your body:
Your ability to obtain erection and ejaculate may be compromised. From all the reading I’ve done, it seems like it’s not always permanent and in fact, the ejaculation part is often more a response to anxiety than an actual physical problem. It does not matter what kind of ostomy surgery you had, you will not lose your ability to orgasm. Orgasm and ejaculation are separate actions, so while your body may be on board with the orgasm, it may take some work to get your mind there.
The more intensive your ostomy-surgery was in your pelvic regions, the higher the risk for surgical damage to occur. This can include nerve damage that leads to the inability to achieve erection and can affect potency. The damage is not always permanent, though it can take years to get your function back. If you are interested in having kids after surgery, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your surgeon about options for saving your sperm, just in case. Remember – these complications don’t happen to everyone, but it’s good to be aware of them. For a nice chart that breaks down the level of risk for each complication associated with which surgery you had, check out page 13 of the UOAA Intimacy Guide.
Way less research has been done on sexual complications in females. When the rectum is removed, it is possible for the uterus to tilt slightly. It seems the most common problems for females are painful sex and vaginal dryness. Painful sex can be a problem, though if you keep trying, it might (and probably will) get better. There are tons of lubricants on the market and other natural ones you can research to help with vaginal dryness.