IBD and sex

When it comes to a great sex life, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can be a bit of a pain in the butt (sometimes literally). But for most people living with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, a normal, healthy and pleasurable sex life is totally achievable. As with many elements of your lifestyle, some accommodations for your health may need to be made, but ultimately you can have IBD and still live a very happy life full of great sex.

Let’s get physical

In terms of physical barriers to great sex, IBD symptoms can sometimes get in the way of getting down (so to speak). During flare ups you may feel too unwell to feel aroused, let alone to actually go through the physical motions of the deed itself.

Let’s face it, if you’re feeling sick (be it from IBD, a raging migraine, the flu or some dodgy take away food) you’re probably far from being in the mood. That goes for most people. Having sex when you’re sick tends to suck.

Symptoms such as abdominal or rectal discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea and gas can also present obstacles for intimacy. Sometimes you’ll just need to fit your sex life in around your symptoms – go for it during periods of remission and cool it down a bit during flare ups. If you have a spouse or partner, communicating honestly and regularly with them about your health will help you navigate these periods together.

Other physical barriers can include fistulas and abscesses in the anus and/or vagina that can cause pain during sex. Also, if you’ve had surgery, sex may take a little readjusting to – take it slow and if there’s any pain or discomfort you should stop and seek advice from your doctor. Sex should be about pleasure, after all. If it’s not pleasurable for one or both partners, then it’s best to stop and work out any issues safely and respectfully.

Impotence is another physical concern for people living with IBD. While it’s not common, some medications used to treat IBD can occasionally lead to impaired sexual function. If you have concerns about this it’s best to talk to your doctor and talk through any possible risks and side effects associated with courses of treatment.

Let’s talk

Physical worries are one thing that can put a dampener on a sexy mood, but emotional ones can rain the mood out entirely. However, they can be avoided with open communication.

Anxiety, fear and stress about getting intimate are pretty common when you have IBD. You’re only human, so it can be natural to sometimes feel a tad ashamed or embarrassed about your condition.

Education and communication are your best weapons against IBD-induced bedroom anxiety. Educate yourself and your partner about your condition and the effects it can have on you physically (and emotionally) when it comes to being intimate. Talk to your doctor and other sufferers – you can always look to online support communities and those who’ve walked this path before.

Sex is natural, it’s fun and, though Hollywood may tell a different story, it’s common for people to have a variety of bedroom hang-ups and the odd embarrassing or hilarious experience. Whatever your sex life has in store for you and your partner/s, keep a positive attitude and a sense of humour and you’ll be able to weather anything the bedroom (and your IBD) throws at you with aplomb.