Digestive Issues and Sex
Last updated: March 2022
Digestive issues can complicate your life in many ways, one of which can be your sex life. With IBS, there’s a lot of unpredictability. There’s the pain, the diarrhea, the running to the bathroom, and the uncomfortable constipation to deal with. The reality of your digestive health can make you feel less than sexy. The good news is there are ways to manage your IBS and sex life, and find creative ways to have a fulfilling intimate life.
The impacts of IBS on sex
A major part of having a fulfilling sex life is making sure you are honest and communicative with your partner. It’s important to make sure that your partner understands that you might have special needs or boundaries during sex that make you feel safe. Honest communication can not only keep you comfortable but can lead to deeper intimacy and more active and robust sex life! If your partner isn’t receptive to your needs, it might be time to try couples counseling. Your needs are valid!
It’s also important to remember that just like your IBS symptoms, there will probably be ebbs and flows with your sex drive. When you’re having a flare-up, you might not feel any sex drive at all. Who could blame you? If you’re up for it, those times might be when some cuddling or a gentle massage might come into play. Sometimes just lying together on the couch can make you feel closer.
Tips for sex with IBS
For when you’re feeling a little more frisky, here are some tips to try:
Dealing with pelvic pain
Pelvic pain is often associated with IBS. Sometimes penetration might hurt or you might have other pain in your genital region. If that’s the case, try using a water-based lubricant to make things go more smoothly. Or, perhaps you might try avoiding penetration all together, and just doing oral sex, manual clitoral stimulation, or using a vibrator. It also might be helpful to mention any pain that you have to your gynecologist. They can help you troubleshoot.
In that same vein, try to be open to experimenting. Sometimes what we think of as “sex” just won’t work for you on a certain day, especially if you have anal sex. There’s tons of other options that are just as fun. Some ideas might be: a long slow massage, mutual masturbation, oral sex, or using sex toys.
Reducing flare ups
For some people, sex can trigger an IBS flare. It’s thought that this is possibly caused by the blood flow to the genital and anal region during sex. If this is the case, ask your doctor if there are any medicines you could take prior to sex that might help reduce the likelihood of a flare.
You may have built up a lot of anxiety surrounding sex with IBS. That is completely understandable! But, anxiety can lead to IBS flares, and vice versa. Try to work on relaxing before you start getting steamy. This could be something as easy as 10 deep breaths, watching a meditation video on YouTube, taking a slow stroll around the block, or maybe some gentle touching between you and your partner. It might also help to dim the lights and set the mood so that you’re feeling extra cozy.
As hard as this is, try to not feel shame. Having a chronic condition does NOT mean that you are damaged, undateable, or undesirable. That is simply just not true! Our bodies are complicated and strange, and IBS is a very common condition, affecting between 25 and 45 million people in the United States. You are in good company.
- Communication is key! Tell your partner what your needs are to make sure you are kept safe and have an enjoyable experience.
- Your sex drive, like your IBS flares, will come and go. Try to not overthink things.
- Sex does not have to have a rigid definition. If it feels good to you, you can define sex however you want. It’s your body and your life! Be creative, and do what feels pleasurable, whatever that means for you.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?