Navigating life after ostomy surgery can be hard, and it is completely normal to feel anxious or uncertain about returning to dating and intimacy after stoma surgery. I remember feeling unsure about where to even start and how to approach the topic with new love interests. Thoughts like, “how do I even bring this up? When should I bring this up? And, what if they don’t accept it?” circled my mind often.

Having ostomy surgery can have a huge impact on mental health, body image, and self-esteem, which can all impact navigating dating life and intimacy. Because of this, I think it is key to practice self-care and self-acceptance both before and during the process.

Sex, intimacy, and romance are all important aspects of life and should be continued after surgery – everyone deserves to be fulfilled in this area. If you are having a particularly difficult time with low self-esteem, consider reaching out to someone you trust or a professional to discuss.

Tips for the first date:

  • Talk to someone who has had ostomy surgery and has been on successful dates. (A great place to find others who have experience is in Girls With Guts’ private FB forum!)
  • Discuss any fears/concerns with someone you trust.
  • Choose an activity that you feel comfortable doing. This can help ease anxiety on the first date.
  • Check the food menu ahead of time if you are going to a restaurant.
  • Wear something in which you feel confident and comfortable.

Sexual Intimacy after Ostomy Surgery

Okay, now that the first date is out of the way (yay!), what about getting back to the bedroom? Remember that it is always up to you when or if you want to disclose your stoma with your date, but if you are anticipating becoming sexually intimate, a heads-up may help prevent any awkwardness in the moment.

The first time I was intimate after surgery was with someone I knew for a long time and they knew I had surgery and why I had it. They knew I had a medical device and they didn’t really ask any more questions. I remember asking them afterward what they had thought or if it bothered them. They told me it wasn’t any different in their mind and they hadn’t even thought about the bag at all. To be honest, I was really surprised (and relieved).

The second time I was intimate after surgery was with someone who didn’t know me as well. I was pretty nervous to bring it up so I told them how I had a surgery to remove my large intestine on our first date but was too anxious to go into more detail. I ended up disclosing about my pouch right before we got intimate and I kept the lights completely off the first few times because I was more comfortable exploring the experience that way.

I have since learned that confidence is key. Your date will see you for who you are, your passions, and your personality before they see your ostomy. It is important to remember your ostomy does not define you, so if somebody reacts negatively, let that be a reflection of them and not you. You may be surprised to find out how many people react with positivity and curiosity or just plain neutrality about your ostomy.

Sexual Intimacy after ostomy surgery facts and tips to keep in mind:

  • Everyone’s body reacts differently to surgery and some people may need to wait longer before it is safe to have sex.
  • Always discuss any concerns or risks with your healthcare provider.
  • Surgery can create scar tissue which can make things down there tighter than before, so lube is always a good idea.
  • Empty your pouch beforehand.
  • Try using pouch covers, ostomy underwear, or lingerie if that makes you more confident.
  • Remember, your stoma does not have nerve endings so it won’t get hurt during close physical contact.

At the end of the day, you are deserving of a fulfilling romantic relationship and sex life. Open communication with a partner can help you re-establish intimacy after ostomy surgery and increase the satisfaction and comfort of both parties. Many people with ostomies report having normal healthy relationships and fulfilling sexual experiences, so don’t be afraid to get back out there!

Editors note

For more information on intimacy with IBD and/or ostomies check out:

Hannah was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at the age of 16 and had her ileostomy surgery in October 2020 at 20 years old. She now spends her free time advocating for people living with IBD, ostomies and other disabilities on social media and in her community. Hannah graduated with her Kinesiology degree and is now in school for acupuncture hoping to work in women’s health once she graduates. She loves to play tennis, paint and spend as much time outside as possible.
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