These intimacy and sex tips are for women who have an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s, and who want more intimacy in their romantic relationship. I’m not a marriage therapist or a gastroenterology expert – but I am a woman with ulcerative colitis and a sexy husband :-)
While writing 10 Natural Ways to Ease the Pain of Ulcerative Colitis, I realized that I’ve never written about how ulcerative colitis can affect sexual intimacy. My personal experience with IBD and sex might help you navigate your own muddy waters.
First, I have to confess that I didn’t think I could get married if I had ulcerative colitis. How could I possibly do my nightly Pentasa enemas? What would my husband think about my flareups? Was it possible to hide the fact that I have an inflammatory bowel disease? I didn’t know who to talk to – it didn’t occur to me to search online for sex tips for women with ulcerative colitis.
One more “confession”: my ulcerative colitis is fairly mild, and it’s been in remission for over six months. When I was first diagnosed I thought I’d either 1) die from this inflammatory bowel disease; or 2) have to have my large or small intestine removed (an ileostomy). Searching for sexual intimacy tips for women with ulcerative colitis was not high on my list of priorities.
Until I met the man I wanted to marry. Then, I was like “But wait! I have colitis! How does this fit into married life? Do women with inflammatory bowel disease actually get married and have sex?”
I didn’t want to ask my gastroenterologist about sexual intimacy, marriage, and inflammatory bowel disease. I also hadn’t thought about marriage and serious illness. Here’s what I wish I knew after I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and before I got married…
5 Sex Tips for Women With Ulcerative Colitis
Remember that not all types or degrees of ulcerative colitis are the same. My experience isn’t the same as yours – which means that my tips may not work for you. It’s not just the IBD that’s different; it’s how couples experience sexual intimacy, romance, and connection.
Here’s what I’ve learned about sexual intimacy and inflammatory bowel disease…
1. Balance being authentic with keeping your privacy
I’ve learned how to keep my ulcerative colitis from flaring, so my IBD isn’t a big issue in my marriage now. We’ve been married for almost 11 years – my colitis was a much bigger problem the first few years of our marriage. But it’s been relative calm for the past year or so, which I’m so thankful for.
Sleep and stress management techniques (prayer, connection with God, yoga, running, hugging my dogs, and writing) are my most important “treatments” for my ulcerative colitis. When I feel it starting to wake up and prepare to flare, I use a Pentasa enema before falling asleep at night.
While my husband knows I use enemas – and he’s seen them – he has never been in the bed with me while I use them. I ask him to leave the bedroom and shut the door, so I can have my privacy. This is a bit of a pain for him because I like to do the enema right before I fall asleep, which means I often have to kick him out of bed for those few minutes. He leaves without complaint, but it still feels a little awkward!
So here’s the first “sex tip” for women with ulcerative colitis: be real and honest with your husband about what you’re experiencing because of the IBD, but don’t share the details. Emotional connection is the first step towards true and beautiful sexual intimacy, so you need to be authentic with him. But, you don’t need to share every little detail with him. It’s not because enemas are bad or should be kept secret – I love my Pentasa enemas because they heal me! It’s just that some things are better left unsaid, unshared.
2. Remember that to your husband you are not your IBD
Ulcerative colitis is embarrassing. My bathroom experiences are gross – and thankfully my husband isn’t involved in this aspect of my IBD! Unfortunately, he can hear everything when we’re on vacation in an distant land with a small hotel room and my colitis is flared. Excuse me, my noise is showing.
That’s the authentic part of me: sometimes my husband witnesses the effects of my ulcerative colitis. How is this a sex tip, you ask? It directly affects how attractive I feel, as well as how sexy I think I am to him. Luckily men are easily able to set aside silly things like bathroom noises, and focus on enjoying sexual intimacy with their wives.
3. Be where you are
When you’re being intimate with your husband, forget about the ulcerative colitis. Forget about the bathroom noises, the medications, the enemas, all the rest of the problems that an inflammatory bowel disease brings.
Instead, focus on connecting with your husband. Be mindful and present. One of the best sex tips I’ve learned is that intimacy starts in a woman’s brain. Ulcerative colitis is a gross and embarrassing disease – but if we hold ourselves back by allowing our feelings of awkwardness or grossness to overcome us, our relationships will suffer.
If you don’t feel emotionally connected to your husband, read 6 Steps to Building an Emotionally Healthy Relationship.
4. Know that your ulcerative colitis may be silent during sex
I’ve felt my guts burbling (ulcerative colitis acting up), and I’ve proceeded to be intimate with my husband. I was worried about a possible toot toot (or worse), but my body seemed to know that while sex is happening, ulcerative colitis goes to sleep.
Of course, this sex tip (go forth and enjoy despite your IBD) depends on the type, degree, and activity of your ulcerative colitis. You know your body better than anyone (except maybe your gastroenterologist who has seen it close up during a colonoscopy).
Do you feel comfortable enough with your husband to have sex while your colitis is active? This is a personal, private decision that only you can make. Talk about it with him. I’ve never told my husband what I fear could happen if we are intimate while my IBD is flared because I don’t want him to imagine the worst gross scenario. But I have told him that I’m feeling nervous about sex during an ulcerative colitis flareup. This goes back to my first sex tip for women with ulcerative colitis: authenticity and privacy both.
5. Remember that sex is good, healthy, and healing
I’ve never written a blog post with sex tips, but I have researched and written about how good sex is for the human body. And there are healing aspects to sexual intimacy. Orgasms are incredibly healthy! They feel good because they are good for you.
Read Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Dr Kevin Leman if you want to feel more comfortable with sex. You’ll learn how to overcome your awkwardness, and talk about sexual intimacy in context of ulcerative colitis.
Sex releases boosts your immune system, improves bladder control, lowers your blood pressure, lowers your risk of heart attack, lessens pain, eases stress (unless you’re stressed about having sex because of your colitis!), and improves sleep. Sex will have a positive effect on your ulcerative colitis. And it just feels good.
What to Do Next
Talk to a trained professional if your colitis is serious. Since I’m not a sex therapist or relationship counselor, I can’t offer specific tips for women with ulcerative colitis. If your inflammatory bowel disease is a serious health issue – and it’s affecting your marriage – talk to a therapist. Go beyond your gastroenterologist – or perhaps he or she can refer you to a psychologist or support group who can offer practical sex tips for people with IBD.
Try not to let embarrassment or even shame stop you from reaching out for help. Ulcerative colitis is a crappy disease for women (but there are worse), and it can negatively affect your sex life. But, you can find ways to rise above it and forge a strong emotional and sexual connection with your husband regardless of the IBD.
Read 9 Natural Ways to Increase Your Sex Drive, especially if you feel like your ulcerative colitis is holding you back from sexual intimacy with your husband.
Leave a comment. What’s your experience with sexual intimacy and ulcerative colitis? Take time to think about what sort of sex tips you need. Learn more about irritable bowel disease and sex.
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of ulcerative colitis and sex.