"Let's Get it On"
As someone who advocates for a healthy love life post-surgery and with IBD, I am often asked questions about my experiences with confidence, sex, and helpful tips to living life to the fullest! Below are a collection of common questions, all answers are based on my own experiences as a woman who happens to have an ostomy!
Here is the big question I get when discussing sex and intimacy with an ostomy: How did you find the confidence and self esteem to feel sexy with an ostomy?
This is quite a loaded question. I think that finding myself beautiful came from a place of darkness within me. I did not wake up one day and suddenly think “self, you are a badass and you look damn good”. It took months of positive thinking. I always knew that my stoma, Piglet, would come into my life. My body was notorious for failing treatments and I knew I’d run out of options eventually. My fears and doubts about my body started way before my ostomy, so when it became clear to me that my days with a body that had never seen a scalpel were numbered, I turned to my community for support. I researched pictures of women brave enough to show their bellies and found strength in my husband who had worked from day one to build me up (and to this day reassures me constantly that I am beautiful). As a woman who happens to be chronically ill, I will always struggle with self image, but if I continue to feed my body and mind positivity and patience I can maintain the right state of mind.
How long did it take you to heal from surgery, and how long until you were comfortable having sex after surgery?
After my surgery for a temporary ostomy, my doctors told me that I could start getting back at it when I was ready! Eleven days post-surgery was when I felt ready (I was a bit impatient), after six weeks I was feeling mostly normal, and by eight weeks I was back to raising hell!
What positions felt most comfortable?
Honestly, being on top was the most comfortable for me while recovering. I had control of my movements, which was helpful while my range of motion was limited.
Did the surgery or ostomy stop you from being intimate with your partner of cause you to lose your sex drive?
Heck no! I felt so much better after having my surgery, it allowed me to have more fun! I didn’t have to worry about urgency and accidents anymore. I felt more like myself than I had in years!
How and when do you tell your date that you have IBD or an ostomy?
I told my husband on our third date. He asked me if it was similar to Crohn’s disease (his friend’s wife has it) and we carried on with our date. My thoughts are that if you would consider getting intimate with your date/partner, you should tell them. Will this always be an easy or comfortable conversation? No, but the sooner you tell them, the quicker you can weed out the bad ones.
What do you do with the bag during sex? Are there any tricks or prep work?
I don’t do anything special, just make sure the bag is empty before and sometimes I will wear a cover wrap or belt!
What about the smell?
What about it? Smell is not an issue unless you have a leak. If you are worried, you can take time before hand to empty your bag, wash it out with water, clean the end of the tip on the inside and outside with a wipe, use body spray around your belly (not recommended if you have sensitive skin), and/or use a lubricating deodorant that can be used in your bag.
What if I have an accident?
Coming from a person with experience with accidents: don’t stress over a potential accident. You can’t control what the future holds, so have fun, and if you do happen to have an accident, use it as an opportunity to give your bedding a good wash and take a relaxing shower with your partner!
With all this being said, we are all different. Take things slow, don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with, and have an open line of communication with your partner should you need to take a break or take things slower. If you have questions about recovery time after surgery, always consult your doctor! If you have any other tips and tricks, or have a question that wasn’t addressed please feel free to leave a comment below!
Jenell Hathaway was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at the age of 21. After a long five year battle with many failed treatments she had surgery to get an ostomy in July of 2018. Jenell and her stoma, Piglet, are as happy as ever! She is married and is eager to start a family.
Jenell devotes her time to helping others with ostomies via social media channels and talking about her experiences as an ostomate. Her favorite hobbies include napping, watching TV, and spending time with her families and friends.