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It’s natural to feel stressed about possible relationship issues related to your ostomy. Explore common concerns about new and existing relationships, and how to put your mind at ease.
What if my partner looks at me differently or maybe even rejects me in some way? How will the pouch affect my sex life? How do I approach new relationships?
These and many other questions reflect the worries many people have about intimacy after ostomy surgery. The good news is that you can have a healthy dating life or, if you’re already in a relationship, a lifestyle that you and your partner enjoy. You just have to be proactive and communicate.
Here are some common concerns and suggestions that might help.
I’m worried about when I should tell someone I’m dating about my stoma.
When you are fully clothed, no one needs to know that you have had ileostomy, colostomy or urostomy surgery. You can decide if you want to share that information. However, if you are planning to be intimate and remove your clothes, the pouch can’t be ignored.
Okay, so how do I deal with new intimate relationships?
Once you anticipate that things will get serious, be sure to have a discussion before getting physical. Start by rehearsing a short explanation to yourself or a friend. Go over your illness or accident. Explain the surgery and why you need to wear a pouch. Once you practice how to talk about your situation, it will go easier with a new partner.
My partner and I are worried about the impact on our sex lives.
If you are in a committed relationship, involve your partner as soon as you learn that you need ostomy surgery. Once you do, the topic of sex is likely to come up. That’s why it’s important for both of you to talk to your surgeon or nurse specialist about how your particular surgery will or won’t impact your sex life. Many couples say that sharing this experience actually brings them closer.
I’m worried that pouch changes will scare my partner.
Part of involving your partner early on is having them see the pouch changed in the hospital. The simple act of seeing the stoma helps minimise concerns. Doing pouch changes while a healthcare professional is there to answer questions can help put both of you at ease. For many people, the reality of a stoma is much less of a shock than the anticipation of it.
I’m worried I won’t be able to have sex for a while.
Recovery from a major operation takes time. Many people who have stoma surgery had a debilitating condition first, which slows the recovery process. Do not expect to resume your sex life as soon as you get home. Talk to your healthcare professional about when you can resume sexual activity. There is no set timetable and each couple will have a different comfort level.
Download the full pdf: Living with an Ostomy: Sex & Parenthood
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