IBD and sex

With long working hours, demanding kids, and lots of fabulous TV series to watch, maintaining a healthy sex life is challenging for anyone. When you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), things can get even trickier. 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 maintain a happy sex life.

Let’s get physical

In terms of physical barriers to great sex, IBD symptoms can put you in a difficult position – excuse the pun! During flare ups you may be too unwell to feel aroused, let alone go through the physical motions of the deed itself. That goes for most people, having sex when you’re sick isn’t a huge turn on.

Symptoms such as abdominal or rectal discomfort, nausea, diarrhoea and flatulence can also present obstacles for intimacy. Sometimes you’ll just need to fit your sex life around your symptoms – going for it during periods of remission and cooling 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, it may take a while to readjust to your sex life. 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 is not pleasurable for one or both partners, then it is best to stop and work out any issues safely and respectfully.

Impotence is another physical concern for people living with IBD. While uncommon, some medications used to treat IBD can occasionally lead to impaired sexual function. If you have concerns, speak to your doctor about any possible risks and side effects associated with treatment.

Sex is emotional

Sex isn’t just a physical act, it is also a very emotional one. Anxiety, fear and stress about getting intimate are common when you have IBD. You’re only human, so it can be natural to sometimes feel a little embarrassed about your condition.

Education and communication are your best weapons against IBD-induced bedroom anxiety. Educate your partner and about your condition and the effects it can have on you physically (and emotionally) when it comes to being intimate.

Sex is natural, it is fun and, although Hollywood may tell a different story, it is common for people to have a variety of bedroom hang-ups and the odd embarrassing or hilarious experience.

How should I communicate with my partner?