Editor's note: We printed the first three of Barbara Skoglund's "Myths" last month, after picking them up from the Winnipeg (Manitoba) chapter. Barbara has now kindly sent us the remainder of her "Myths" series, and we will continue to publish them in future issues. Added note: Since we originally posted this article in Feb 1999, Ms. Skoglund's complete set of myths has been posted on the North Suburban Chicago chapter site.
Warning - These are the frank comments of an adult - though less racy than recent US news stories.
Ok, ok, perhaps ostomates can find a life partner out there. But what about sex? This is actually one of the top questions people ask me when they find out I have an ostomy. "Can you still have sex?" Of course I can.
Reasons why my sex life has improved since installation of my permanent ileostomy: 1) I am no longer in pain. Once I got healthy I no longer have those times when I just don't feel up to making love. 2) When I had ulcerative colitis and when I had a straight ileoanal anastomosis I often had perianal pain that made sex uncomfortable at the least and painful at times. 3) I no longer waste time worrying about having an accident during sex. 4) I no longer have to excuse myself to go to the bathroom "just one more time."
There can be some challenges. It's always wise to empty your pouch before sex. While my dangling bag isn't a problem for me, some folks find wearing cummerbunds or crotchless panties helpful. Some who wear 2 piece pouches switch to a smaller pouch during intimate moments. I do have a lovely lace pouch cover I wear for some special occasions. Though I don't feel the need to wear it every time I make love.
A very small percentage of men have sexual dysfunction problems after J-pouch, ileostomy or colostomy surgery. The type of problems range from total impotence to those who continue to have erections, but do not ejaculate. The odds for trouble are dramatically reduced if you have an experienced surgeon. These problems don't come from the ostomy, but rather from sloppy snipping around the rectum.
Those who have their rectums and anuses removed can no longer receive anal sex (not that I've found too many Ulcerative Colitis/Crohn's Disease folks who do anyway).
I think the biggest impact an ostomy has on one's sex life is in the area of self image, not in terms of physical functioning. I've had my ostomy for almost 2 years now and I still have days (though they are few and far between now) where I look in the mirror and cry. Where I feel ugly and damaged and very unsexy. Then my husband will walk up behind me and kiss the back of my neck and tell me and show me how he feels about me. I know that I'm so lucky to have him. He has helped me deal with the self image issue and picks my spirits up on those days when I feel so low. As I said before, over time I have fewer and fewer problems with the impact of my ostomy on my self image. I am able to feel sexy and act on those feelings without the pain and worry I often had when I was sick.