Posted by: Emily York | March 23, 2009

You Can Have Sex After Ostomy Surgery

Any adult who is faced with the prospect of ileostomy surgery wants to know how it is going to affect their sex life. But it’s not always easy to ask your doctor, and sometimes there’s no one else to ask. I had intended to write a tell-all about sex, and then I remembered that both my parents read my blog, not to mention my mom’s boss! So, I find that I feel more reserved than I normally am. If any of my sister ostomates or sister soon-to-be ostomates would like to have a direct conversation with me on the subject, please let me know and I’d be happy to contact you by email or phone and discuss details. But I would like to say a few general things here, with the caveat that my experience is mine and may or may not be the same as anyone else’s.

Yes, you can have sex after having an ostomy. In my case, it took almost three months of healing before I could comfortably have sex, but after that it was no problem.  If you are considering having ostomy surgery for crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, you are probably very sick, which means that you probably aren’t leading a very sexually active life right now. I found that sex post-surgery happens more frequently and is more satisfying than it was when I was sick. How the presence of the pouch affects you and your partner largely depends on you and your relationship. I was very lucky in that not only was I married, but my husband is entirely unconcerned with the pouch. I honestly can’t say what it would be like to be dating people and having to discuss this with potential partners and worrying how they would react. I imagine it’s tough, and since I haven’t had that experience I really can’t speak to it.

I prefer to use a two-piece pouching system, which allows me to swap out my larger pouch for a smaller one whenever I want to. Honestly, I’m too lazy to do this very often, but every once in a while I will put on a smaller, closed pouch. I also really love my heart tie and my hip-T (see links on my blog) for intimacy. Obviously these are for the girls, not the boys. The heart tie is designed for this. The hip-T is not, but I find that it’s comfortable and sexy to wear it by itself, especially over a mid or small sized pouch.

This is one of those things where you’ll figure out what works for you, and you’ll figure it out very quickly. But I know that before you have the surgery, you really don’t know what you’re getting into, and so I just wanted to communicate that at least for me, my sex life is great post-op, and a huge improvement over what it was like as a sick person.

(Recently I wrote more about ostomy & sex, because gosh, this seems like something my readers are very interested in :): Here’s the link – More On Sex )


  1. Hi Emily, I also have a permanent ileostomy which I had for Ulcerative Colitis, I am now coming up for my 7th year of being well, after having suffered for 10 years, and life with my Stoma is fantastic. I managed to get a job 6 months after my surgery, something I had not been well enough to do in a long time. Something else I am now able to do is travel, I’ve been to South America and India, and even rode on an elephant! As for the sex issue, I too find that sex is much better now, I think it’s partly down to feeling more relaxed, and also the fact that maybe the muscles in that area had probably suffered over the years. Have you had to change your pouch anywhere strange or unusual yet? I once had to change mine in the toilet of a glass bottom boat at sea in a space about two foot wide, that was a challenge! Hope you continue to be well, and carry on living life to the full. Jan xxx

    • You definitely beat me on unusual places to change your pouch! I think the most unusual place for me has been out in the woods when I’ve been camping. Glad to hear that you’re seven years into it and still happy!

  2. Both my parents have bowel cancer … mum has a stoma and dad an illeostomy. I have recently met a delightful gentleman who has a colostomy following surgery 6 years ago. He is a bit shy about proceeding further, so to speak, and i am a bit unsure as to how these things work on both a practical level. It is clear from his perspective that it is psychological issue, but does it make a difference? Surely not between 2 people that care for each other?

    • I can’t speak for him. It doesn’t feel very sexy to have a pouch, and I can imagine feeling shy about a new partner seeing me so exposed. Physically, it is not an issue. Love & patience. :)

  3. Hi Emily,
    I have been getting to know a man for the last few months and have been wondering why things were moving so slowly. He told me about his illeostomy tonight. When he left I “Googled” it and that’s how I ran into your site.
    Thank you for sharing this, for your honestly, and openness. Paul is a great guy and I’m looking forward to a wonderful relationsip with him. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for him to tell me about this. Thank you for your posts and for educating me and the countless others who don’t comment to let you kow the difference that you’re making.
    You rock!

    • Thanks, Lisa! Good luck!

  4. I was recently in a relationship for about 7 months while I had the ostomy as a result of crohn’s disease. My partner and I became sexually active, and as someone who is only 17, the ostomy was a huge concern for me. There are a few tricks that essentially make the ostomy out of sight and out of mind. First, excuse yourself to use the bathroom to empty the pouch before engaging in sexual activity. Have a small roll of tape in your purse or conveniently located in your bathroom. After emptying the pouch, take the end and fold it up, taping it to your skin tightly. This is good especially if you have a see-through pouch. You can go and be naked with your partner like this, or you can take it a step further to muffle any sounds your pouch might make and purchase an “underbust corset” (underbust so that your partner can still engage in foreplay with your breasts without removing the corset) to wear. These come with g-string panties and are fairly inexpensive off amazon. Now, if you are comfortable with your partner naked and are in a stable and loving relationship, this might not be necessary, but it could help you feel more sexy while with your partner. In my case, my partner was very understanding and did his own research about ileostomies and pouches and crohn’s disease so he wasn’t put off by it or uncomfortable. We were able to be completely naked together when intimate and it made no difference. However if you are a casual dater, having some background music and your own moaning might distract and muffle any sounds from the ostomy, as well as turning out the lights and using the aforementioned tips to cover the ostomy, you should be good to go and nobody will ever know.

  5. Hi I’ve been separated for 10 years I started meeting people a year ago zoo as I feel comfortable with someone enough I tell them about my ileostomy each time I never heard back from these men I am so scared to even date again..I sometimes wish I never had the operation and just lived with the pain of my Crohns’s very depressing ..

    • Hang in there! I have been fortunate enough to have a partner, so I haven’t had to date and do the explanation. I can only imagine how hard it is! But I hope you are at least healthy and have the energy to live a full life. I know it sounds cliched, but the right person will not be phased by this!

  6. you are wrong that the “right person won’t be phased by this”. If the roles were reversed and it was your husband with the bag you would most likely have emtional issues with sex. The first time you get spilled on, get a whiff of feces during intimate activities, it will scar you. Your blog is about you and how you are the victim. There are two victims when it comes to medical problems with embarrasing sexual outcomes. Your husband is a good man. And I am a good wife. Just don’t underestimate the effect this issue has on your partner…. Committed relationship or not.

    • It is true. Some people are not phased by it. I am one of the people. My boyfriend of 2 years now has an ostomy bag. Before we even started dating he told me he had it. In all honesty it has never for a second weirded me out or made me uncomfortable. It took much prodding and love and support for him to take his shirt off in front of me, take a shower with me etc. I’ve had those “embarrassing” moments happen during sex. They don’t phase me, nor has it scarred me. although I do know he’s been mortified… I simply confirm it doesn’t bother me, which is the absolute truth. Now sex is a comfortable thing… Neither of us care about the bag, and he’s not preoccupied with adjusting it etc. so when people say the right person won’t be phased by it, it’s true. And as I’ve told him I think it’s a neat tidy way to deal with bowel movements… Best part is I don’t have a bf who takes an hour stinking up the bathroom or farting in bed lol.

      • This is really nice to hear. Thanks for your comments!

  7. I really enjoyed reading your info about your situation. However, my husband is the one with the ileostomy. He is very very self conscious and is afraid to try sex. Are there any products or words of wisdom you could tell me about so I can help us regain our intimacy? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Cindy, I don’t know if I have any words of wisdom. I am not as familiar with the products for men, but I think Ostomy Secrets does have some things for men. Other than that, I think just patience and kind words and love over time will hopefully help him to get comfortable with it. Depending on the products he uses, he could try switching out a bag with a cap. If you want to initiate, wait until after he has gone to the bathroom in the morning. And right after eating a big meal is often not the best time. Good luck!

      • Grab one of his pouches, apply it to your own abdomen with some paste, fill it with a little water or something, just a tiny bit, and show him that he’s still normal, he’s still sexy.

  8. My fiance just had colon removal surgery and is still in the hospital. He is very conccerned about intamacy issues…..I love him for him…but plastic against my skin probably won’t be a turn on….also the bag hangs low which concerns me regarding oral sex. Are there any web site out there that sell items to help with th is….also any other resources u can point me to are greatly appreciated thanks

    • Depending on the kind of system he ends up using, he may have the option of replacing the bag with a cap. This wouldn’t be good when he’s having a lot of output, but once he gets comfortable with the rhythm of his body vis-a-vis eating, he will have a good sense of when he could use either a cap, or a small closed bag for an hour or two. most of the covers I’ve seen were for women, but ostomy secrets also sells products for men:

  9. I would appreciate. Joining this blob. I recently had a colostomy. In November n I am having a difficult. Time adjusting. It is normal to feel so out of place?

    • yes, normal!
      6 months is easier than 2 months, 1 year is better than 6 months. you will get a handle on it.

  10. Its great that you’re able to resume your sex life. No doubt already being married helps a lot. I was single when I got a permanent ostomy at the age of 20, and haven’t had a girlfriend in the 4 years since. The idea of sex with a pouch is just too embarrassing to even consider. I also don’t swim in public for the same reason. You couldn’t pay me to take off my shirt in front of another person. It really is great that you recovered so well. I’m just letting you know that people have varying experiences.

    • Yes, it’s so true that people have varying experiences, and it is definitely not my intent anywhere in this blog to suggest that I own the truth about what it’s like to live with an ostomy. I always felt infuriated when people told me things about Crohn’s that suggested there was one experience of Crohn’s. Perhaps I should not have titled the post this way – I meant it to be encouraging rather than presumptuous. No doubt I was fortunate in having a partner already, and one who is incredibly generous and easily overlooks such things. I know it could be embarrassing, and some people might react exactly how you fear they would – but I do hope that you will have an opportunity to give someone the chance to react in the way you’d hope, because I think there are lots of people out there who would overlook an ostomy bag. Good luck! And thanks for your gentle reminder.

      • Thanks for replying. Your article was very reasonable and I didn’t mean to suggest that you were being in any way presumptuous. I appreciate you sharing details of how you live with your ostomy. It really is great the way you’ve regained your personal life. I have a colostomy and recently learned about irrigation, which unfortunately isn’t possible with an ileostomy. Maybe irrigation will give me my life back. Take care and best wishes for the future.

  11. Your blog is very appreciable. Truely it is so varing situation aboutileostomy bag It really is great the way you’ve It really is great the way you’ve regained your personal life your personal life.

  12. Let’s see where do I begin. I’ll be 61 in less than two weeks And with this lousy quality of life I wonder if I’ll make it to then.
    I’ve had regional enteritis As it was known back then in 1968. It began as a rectal abscess Which this ass hole doctor Which is the more apt title for him Maybe and hopefully he’s no longer living But he had to chutzpah to accuse me of using Vicks vapor Rob or inserting other things in my rectum. He never even did any troubleshooting to see what had caused the abscess. One month later I was back in the hospital again the abscess had opened and had gotten infected and a new one had formed. The asshole doctor Whose initials were I. R Operated again only this time my dad may he rest in peace Contacted our family doctor who in turn contacted the gastroenterologist that made the diagnosis of the hell that I would have forever.

    Fast forward to 1997. I was married then with a son who was four years old. And my then wife was going to approve me and move us down to Plano, Texas. Bad enough uprooting a person who’s lived their whole life in one area. I didn’t have to many issues about leaving my home Philadelphia But wasn’t for the right reasons. At that time I was getting iron injections in my butt because I was told I was borderline anemic Another symptom of Crohn’s disease In May 1997 I went in for a routine colonoscopy I came out of recovery having horrible pain in my shoulder And x-ray revealed that Mike: had gotten punctured during a colonoscopy. The woman that had taken me that day as you know you can’t drive the day of your colonoscopy because of the anesthesia Was the mother of one of my sons playmates at day care So she took my son and the dog and while I was to undergo major surgery. And 75%; was going to be removed as a result of the puncture
    The next day my wife had arrived from Dallas after I called her before was being wheeled into the operating room. She tried to sue the gastroneurologist But instead of calling off the move which would’ve been the right thing to do She came to visit me with my four-year-old son in the hospital Where I was in intensive care. And about a day or two later after getting the small-town house we had an suburban Philadelphia all boxed up She left with my son and the dog down for Texas while I was still in intensive care in Philadelphia So you asked the question what the hell was she thinking. To this day I don’t know. The majority of a human being would have called off the entire move and still would have had her job with the same company in Philadelphia. That would’ve been the right thing to do. When I was finally discharged from the hospital My poor parents came to take me home however my dad was so senile he had a very difficult time driving me back to my house And it was all boxed up so I could not find anything and I could not even get around . It’s incomprehensible how my now ex-wife would do something So repugnant And to make matters worse she goes and flies me down to Texas two weeks after I got to the hospital Without even getting medical clearance So now I’ve had this umbilical hernia and to make matters worse the Crohn’s disease came back with a vengeance Most people who have a spine would have called off the entire move gotten older monies back and stayed with their spouse until medical clearance would allow them to revisit the idea of relocating.
    I’m thinking of writing a book of this misadventure
    And after about 18 months of difficulty in acclimating to my new home. And dealing with all the false pretenses she gave me. Such as a slow pace Guaranteed job and not being able to get fired there… And then almost getting killed in the second of two auto accidents the same day soon after she filed for divorce. And then I moved in with some creepy hick. There I was in the hospital again recovering from injuries from the accident
    And I was supposed to fly back to Philadelphia two days later for a second job interview as I had considered moving back so that I can he’ll be with my family my friends my support system
    However in January 1999 I have decided I need to move back and he’ll My son was six years old I want to most difficult things I ever had to do was to tell him that is not his fault and I love him and I will make sure he comes to visit me is awesome as possible The stress of having to do this did not do very good on my Crohn’s But I knew that my quality-of-life would only get worse despite the fact that I was dating a girl but I had to think of the long-term recovery process.
    My son told me that I would have good luck back in Philadelphia this is when he was six years old And in November 2000 part of that good luck team true I met a girl who I knew in high school but she didn’t know me And we have been together since But I don’t know how she would feel about me having an ileostomy.
    Fast forward to present day.
    I have been on just about every single medication possible for Crohn’s disease Including multiple doses of prednisone , Xyfaxin, Remicade,
    Azaulfadine, Humira, Pentasa, Entocort, Apriso, And currently Asacol,
    As well as Imuran, Lomotil, And Cholestrymine (best served ice cold mixed With either Crystal light or 4C Energy Rush. It’s supposed to help book up your stool
    November 3, 2013.. I have been out of work and trying to find employment for over six years I’ve had diabetes type two over three years I also have psoriasis which has gotten worse since stopping prednisone. I also have severe obstructive sleep apnea. And worst of all, I need to get one possibly two full knee replacements Although even with the one knee replacement the other one would entail orthoscopic surgery to do a subchondral plasty Which the surgeon had developed. Unfortunately and rightfully so he cannot do the surgery until the Crohn’s is under control despite being off prednisone for several weeks now. Which makes sense because I have at least one or two accidents every day were never make it to the bathroom.
    I also now have an abscess that still have some remnants despite being drained last month but this time as an outpatient. The colorectal surgeon I went to actually drinking a few weeks ago Because it is closed over and there was still some remaining It felt like I was always sitting want something and it was very painful But he gave me Novacaine shots which hurt very badly and then opened it with a knife Now I have another abscess forming behind the scrotum. And I am seeing him in a couple days. I will not allow him to do that again as I almost broke my mom’s hand squeezing it so hard from being in horrible pain.
    I’ve been told that this all stems from Crohn’s disease As we know it is a progressive disease and it suppresses your immune system.
    On my end I need to get structure back into my life.
    Over $40,000 in credit card debt, Nearly 4 months that I’m behind in my mortgage
    And losing my home is not an option Put it this way the only bag that will occur will be a body bag if they try a foreclose and evict me And my wonderful 82-year-old mother has macular degeneration is about the sweetest person on earth ,from my home. Losing my home is just not an option.
    So where do I go from here?
    Being more diligent on my diet At the same time keeping my diabetes under control And with the 25+ pounds I lost the levels are more within normal range Especially since I’m off steroids However the Cortizone shots the rheumatologist gave me for my niece just aren’t helping But hopefully trying Synvisc one again may help give me some comfort in my knees until I’m ready to do the surgery for the Knees.
    Using the CPAP will certainly help in addition to getting structure in my sleep going to bed and getting up at the same time. A more positive attitude and trying to use as much energy as possible to find a job. Although I have difficulty walking and standing and need a pillow when I sit Ah, now the subject at hand.
    No thank you no ileostomy bag of any type.
    Maybe it comes with a manual and videos of sexual positions you can do with a bag. And partners you can find that would really get into it But I don’t think and I don’t expect my girlfriend would really be interested And I don’t expect that she would be participating in the maintenance of emptying and cleaning my bag.
    So I don’t think you will be able to convince me that having a colostomy bag really awesome he bag despite all the hell that I just told you about would really improve my quality-of-life
    My quality of life will improve when his Crohn’s is under control, When the knees have had her surgery and I’m fully recovered When I am gainfully employed And when I’m paying Wolf and nearly have paid off the $40,000 in debt And not only am I still in my home but will be able to make some home improvements. I put $5600 on the credit card in order to save my beagle Lenny’s life who had a ruptured disc at the age of three and half years old, And he’s doing just great he wears a nylon with Velcro band around his waist to help with incontinence Which happens sometimes But this dog is the best therapy and it’s one of the best decisions that I need despite the cost And I took my mom out of assisted-living which was a waste of money.
    So I have a ways to go. But bag?
    Thanks, but no thanks!
    I’ll take care of the 25% of my colon and my small intestine that I have.
    But if any of you fellow patients use holistic therapy or have heard of using weren’t parasites which I read an article about in men’s health magazine and sore report back in May 2013 on 6abc Action News Please let me know I’m willing to try anything new I just want to better quality of life thank you!

  13. Larry, please consider Transcendental Meditation, as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it is a simple, natural, effortless, mental technique to give deep relaxation and reduce stress. Give it your attention if not just for a peace of mind. The rewards will just grow.

  14. Hi my name is Lynn recently found out that I have Colon cancer i did my surgry a month ago and now im just recovery and my husband wants to have sex intercourse already I don’t know what to do or tell him. So my point is it safe .

    • I cannot provide any medical advice, since I’m not a doctor. For me, in the first few months after surgery I found that it caused some pain, but this I’m sure varies by person.

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