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Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Your Sex Life

Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Your Sex Life

Created: 11/20/2019
Last Updated: 11/26/2019

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By Natalie Miller Moore

Timing is everything.

It's true for a million different things, but it's especially true for people trying to manage inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). You know that when you eat one of your trigger foods, you may upset your plans for the day. Something too spicy or with too much caffeine can lead to more time in the bathroom instead of doing what you need to, or what you want to—like spending time with someone in the bedroom. 

When trying to plan for sex, stomach pain and the risk of untimely gas can be a mood killer. If you have IBD, you may relate to Joanna, 38, who has been dealing with ulcerative colitis for many years, since the onset while she was a college soccer player. She says communication is key for having a healthy sex life when you have IBD. 

"Nobody wants to have sex when you feel awful. So if your partner wants to have sex and maybe your stomach is messed up and you're not in the mood, it can cause some bad emotions. If it's something you and your partner aren't on the same page with, he or she might even perceive that you aren't attractive to them," Joanna said. 

But what if you don't have a steady partner and are dating? Being single with IBD and trying to date has its own challenges. Kate, 45, has IBD and is recently divorced. She explains that having IBD is, "just another embarrassing aspect of life, and dating makes that more complicated." For her, she doesn't lead share her experience with IBD until she grows closer to someone. Once she feels comfortable enough to be intimate with someone, she is most likely comfortable to share her IBD symptoms them. 

This isn't all to say that you need to just grin and bear your IBD symptoms and power through to have sex. Symptom management with IBD can greatly improve your sex life. With more predictability, you will gain confidence. Over time, you'll have a better idea of what to expect, and know what you're comfortable with. Talking to your partner about your needs and restrictions is an important part of building trust.

Some tips for having a healthy sex life with IBD are: 

  • Be open with your partner—once you're comfortable. 
  • Be aware of any positions that may make your discomfort worse. 
  • Don't downplay intimacy. There are ways to enjoy each other, even if you're not feeling up for sex. 

Empowerment comes from knowing what you are dealing with, and taking steps to manage your specific challenges, so your open dialogue should also take place with your health care provider. Work together to identify any triggers or comfort foods and explore any medication options with them. 

This resource was created with support from Genetech, Inc.

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