Early Sexual Expectations After Ostomy Surgery

When you have a stoma, getting back to your normal sex life can be challenging at first. Learn how to set realistic expectations for sex after ostomy surgery.


Learn how to get back to a healthy sex life after stoma surgery.

Going through stoma surgery can create an imbalance in your “normal” world. It affects your body and your mind, which can impact your sex life. How you respond may be influenced by many factors, including your relationship status, your partner, your personality, your social network, your earlier life experiences, and more.

Worries related to sexuality are common in the early days and weeks following stoma surgery. Changes in your body image and a lack of confidence can make it difficult to adjust sexually. That’s why it’s a good idea to go slowly, take some practical steps, and set some realistic sexual expectations early on after you recover from your procedure.

Adapting sexually after ostomy surgery

If you’re in an existing relationship, some of the factors that can positively influence how easily you both adapt sexually include:

  • Having a relationship based on trust and open discussion
  • Valuing intimacy, love, and pleasure above sexual performance
  • Being able to both give and take
  • Being able to ask for what you want

Exploring or improving on these areas as a couple will help you both adapt to this life change. Also, if your sex drive has decreased, which may happen in the early weeks, reassure your partner that it is likely temporary. Continue to offer and accept hugs and affection.

Being single with a stoma

If you’ve gone through stoma surgery without a partner, you may suffer the same sexual side effects and worries as those who have a partner, along with the added anxiety of dating. For example, you may be concerned about whether and when to tell a potential sex partner about your stoma.

Try not to let this worry you too much. You’ll know when the time is right to have that talk. Once you’ve shared your story, if your stoma is a big issue for a potential partner, maybe he or she needs time to adjust. Or maybe they are just not “the one.” Have confidence in who you are as a person, and remember that although your tummy has changed, who you are as a person has not.

Tips for greater sexual confidence after stoma surgery

Confidence comes from getting to know your body again and accepting the changes, as well as having faith in your stoma appliance. Although you may worry that people will notice your stoma, it’s very likely no one will know unless you tell them.

Improve your sexual confidence by taking it one step at a time. Here are some tips that may help:

  • If you are not ready to have sex, talk about it with your partner. If you’re single and dating, be honest with your potential love interest. Set up a time to talk about how you feel.
  • Start courting again – have fun with cuddling and kissing or even just holding hands
  • If you are worried about baring your body entirely, wear a top, tee-shirt, or stoma belt
  • Wearing a pouch cover may also help you feel more comfortable during sex
  • Empty your pouch before having sex

Above all, it’s important to take your time. Don’t rush the process and make sure you are honest and open with your partner or love interest.