Having ostomy surgery in itself can feel super daunting. You wake up, there’s a big, bodily change to get used to, alongside bag changes and learning about ostomy products and accessories. You’re in your hospital bed, trying to get comfortable which can often feel impossible and like a mountain to climb in itself. Your recovery starts, and progresses, and a several weeks/a few months down the line, you’re starting to ask the bigger questions about getting back to your life, or, adjusting to your “new normal”.

In this blog post, I am going to talk about intimacy after ostomy surgery, along with confidence boosting tips. Let’s get started.

Knowing when to get intimate after stoma surgery

There’s no set rule for the exact duration after stoma surgery when you can have sex. And it’s important to remember that there is so much more to intimacy besides sex, which I’ll explore later in this post. There is no set way to go about your sex life and problems with sex don’t necessarily come from surgery. If there is something you are worried about, it’s always best to seek medical advice.

From my own experience and talking to other ostomates, I’d say the best thing to do is to ask for advice from your medical team. My stoma nurse was great at talking to me about my intimacy concerns and as it happened, I didn’t really feel up to anything anyway until a good few months into my recovery. That, and my libido wasn’t great from being so poorly with Crohn’s disease for years prior to my surgery.

A good rule of thumb seems to be to take advice from your medical team, combined with listening to your body. You will know when you feel ready. It’s important to take things slow when you are ready and to be clear with your communication with your partner. Things may feel different, or you may feel a bit tender, and it’s important to know this so that where needed, you and your partner can make adjustments. Also, if you don’t feel ready for sex, it’s also important to communicate this so your partner knows where the line is if things feel like they could go in that direction. So many people go on to have a healthy sex life after surgery. You’re not doomed if you’ve had stoma surgery, even if you need to make some slight changes.

Intimacy – because it’s not all about sex

Intimacy is something that is on many more levels than sex. There are many ways to be physically and emotionally intimate without it leading to sex. Cuddles, kissing and gently massaging one another’s bodies in a relationship can be a great way to feel close and make one another feel good without sex. Again, communication is key.

Something such as having deep conversations and letting your guard down is also intimacy. Just in a different form. Emotional intimacy. Another example could be staying up until silly o’clock talking about anything and everything and giggling. Things such as this are also a great way to build on that closeness and maintain it in a relationship in order for physical intimacy to feel amazing. People may find it hard to have physical intimacy without emotional intimacy.

Physical intimacy doesn’t have to lead to sex

This is a pressure I’ve definitely felt in past relationships and something that can feel like “the norm” in society, especially on TV etc. But, the right person will respect that just because you’re physically intimate, it doesn’t mean it has to go all the way. Watching a film cuddled up together, feeding each other snacks, putting a relaxing face mask on one another and having a bath together are great ways to be physically intimate without sex.

Wearing and outfit or underwear to make you feel good

Sometimes, wearing an outfit that makes you feel good or a pretty underwear set can make all the difference to boost your confidence after ostomy surgery. You may wish to wear underwear that helps to hold your bag in place, or you may not be bothered.

Whatever your preference is, wearing something you feel good in is a definite confidence booster if it’s needed. It’s also something that your partner can appreciate, especially if they know you feel good too. Crotchless underwear or high-waisted underwear can help you to feel supported in the abdominal area, and, a lot of ostomy bags come with the option to fold them upwards, in half, to half their height to minimise the chances of your bag flapping around during sex.

Again, some people often find they forget about their bag during sex and from my own experience, nobody has ever minded my bag or made it an issue during intimacy. It’s part of what makes you you and should be welcomed just as the rest of you should be. Also, emptying your bag before sex can be a good way to feel more confident and ensure it’s less on your mind.

If you encounter problems, there are solutions

Thankfully, there are many things to try out there if you encounter problems following ostomy surgery such as decrease in libido, reduced ability to feel sexual pleasure and dryness. What kind of surgery you’ve had and to what extent can both impact sex.

The good news is that there are lots of things to try if you encounter these problems. Your stoma nurse may be able to help signpost you to products that can help you, so it’s always worth having the conversation. Medications can also impact your sex drive and more, and certain positions may feel more or less comfortable than before surgery. Again (you guessed it), communication with your partner is key.

Respond’s useful advice and support

Respond have a blog full of posts from other ostomates on their website, useful advice and information to help you in your relationships and intimacy. Also, they have a “Sex and Relationships” section, full of helpful tips and a downloadable booklet.

Communication, trust and patience are vital when it comes to sex after ostomy surgery. The right person will be happy to work at a pace that feels comfortable for you and will only want what’s best for you. If you have any questions or concerns about having sex after ostomy surgery, always ask a medical professional.

Thank you for reading!


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