Freedom to Love

Living your life surrounded by your partner, your family and your friends, without holding back due to your stoma really can be possible. 


Being intimate with a stoma


A satisfying sexual relationship helps us feel good, adding to our physical and emotional wellbeing. However, developing and maintaining a good sexual relationship is not always easy – whether you have a stoma or not.

Returning home after surgery is a time for healing and recovery, which may take priority over sexual adjustment. However, there are specific things you can do to help yourself adjust sexually:

  • Share your thoughts and needs with your partner.
  • Tell your partner the most comfortable position for you to lie in.
  • Allow yourself to be touched and held. Affectionate touching can be very positive and reassuring during recovery.
  • Show that you appreciate a warm and loving relationship. By remaining intimate, discussing issues openly, and maintaining a sense of humour, it is often easier for you and your partner to accept life with a stoma.

Several things may make sex more difficult in the immediate postoperative period:

  • Anxiety or fear about your ability to perform sexually, the attractiveness of your body, the possibility of odour, or that the stoma bag might leak.
  • Attempting intercourse before your strength and confidence have returned after the operation.
  • Depressed mood, which many people experience following major surgery.
  • Medication and alcohol.
  • Inability to have an erection, pain during intercourse and lack of interest are reasons that are usually temporary and are not unusual. The experience can be traumatic and frighten you into believing that your sexual desires and arousal have disappeared forever. It is important that you and your partner understand this, so that you will both keep calm and not be alarmed if difficulties occur.

Preparing for Making Love

You may like to wear a cover over your appliance. Covers can be made in many styles and materials: from cotton to sensual satin. Lingerie that is designed for covering pouches discreetly is now available too. Ask your STN if they know of any suppliers. 

It is usually more comfortable to empty the appliance beforehand.

When making love, you and your partner might be afraid of hurting the stoma or dislodging the appliance. Intercourse will not harm the stoma and, as long as you have put on your appliance securely, whatever positions you choose should not affect the stoma bag.

It may seem pre planned in the beginning but as you become more confident both you and your partner will begin to relax.

Physical Effects

For Women

If your rectum was removed during surgery there may be a different sensation in your vagina when you are making love. There may be pain, vaginal tenderness, dryness or vaginal discharge for some months. Don’t be embarrassed or worried. There are many remedies for the problem. One solution could be a water soluble lubricant.

Another simple solution might be a change of position during intercourse. If these do not work, discuss the problem with your Stomal Therapy Nurse or doctor, who may suggest a suppository, hormone replacement or an oestrogen cream. Referral to a sex counsellor may be recommended.

For Men

Some men may experience difficulty in getting an erection. Because the nerves lie close together, there is a possibility that the nerves involved in sexual function may be damaged during any pelvic surgery removing the rectum, bladder or prostate.

If you are unable to get or maintain an erection, see your surgeon, as there are a number of different ways in which you can be helped. Your surgeon will be able to explain about the range of possibilities available e.g. medication, injections or implants.

Personal Relationships

People with stomas have relationships, marry, have children, and lead normal lives. Relationships involving a person with a stoma are just as stable as relationships in general.

It is your right to share or not to share information about your body. If you meet someone you would like to have a sexual relationship with, you need to decide when and how much you want to tell about your operation and stoma.

Most partners accept a stoma with a mere “so what? It’s you I love”, or, “it makes no difference to me,” which are very reassuring. Being accepted the way you are feels good. Express appreciation of your partner’s acceptance of your stoma in the same way you show you are grateful for the other nice things they do for you.

Just as it took time for you to adjust to the idea of having a stoma, it may take your partner time to adjust. However, everyone experiences rejection at some time in life. Rejection is not a pleasant experience and it may be extremely painful.

We are not attracted to everyone we meet, nor is everyone attracted to us. Even in established relationships, feelings of attraction change and some relationships end. A positive step in dealing with your feelings when you experience rejection is to acknowledge the fact that you feel disappointed, hurt, sad, angry or depressed.

Surround yourself with caring friends and supportive family members. This can be very comforting when you are feeling rejected. Leading your own life, filled with people and activities you enjoy, usually restores positive feelings about yourself as you rebuild the necessary confidence to start again.