The need for ostomy surgery can be related to many medical conditions including colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease among others. Whether the ostomy is temporary or permanent, sexual functioning can be impacted. The surgical creation of a stoma may affect sexual performance either through a change in self-image or through physical changes as a result of surgery.
Undergoing ostomy surgery may impact sexuality, intimacy, and personal relationships. Initial reactions to the surgery often focus on fear of the unknown, particularly with a cancer diagnosis. Management of the surgical effects and treatments becomes the most important goal at first. Long-term survival and adjustment typically take a front seat to sexual intimacy.
The surgical creation of an ostomy creates a shift in one’s body image. From an early age, we’ve been taught to eliminate urine and stool in the privacy of our bathroom. Now, you’re dealing with a “stoma” which eliminates either urine or stool into a pouch. This can be shocking, frightening, and/or disgusting to some individuals. Coming to terms with this change in your body can be overwhelming. The ability to identify with a new body image is a process. It involves grieving the loss of the “old you” and acceptance of the “new you”. You are the same and yet different.
To accept the changes to your body, it’s important that you tend to your physical, psychological, spiritual, and sexual being.
Sexual intimacy does not have to be on the top of your list, but at some point, the impact of having an ostomy on your sexual relationship must be talked about.
Concerns about sexual intimacy vary from person-to-person. For the same individual, concerns vary over time and can depend on the type of surgery, the ease of caring for the ostomy, age, coping skills (which can vary on any given day), support systems, and the quality of your relationship with your partner.
Discuss when to resume sexual relations with your surgeon. Generally, relations can resume when surgical incisions have healed and your overall sense of well-being has improved.