IBS can have a negative impact on many aspects of life, including your sex life. Who wants to have sex when you are feeling lousy? Spending so much time dealing with bathroom issues can make it very hard to feel sexy. For some IBS sufferers, the fear of losing bowel control results in further avoidance of sexual intimacy.
Quality of life issues with IBS have long been overlooked by the medical profession, and IBS's impact on sexual functioning is no exception. Thus, it may not be surprising to you to learn that scant research has been conducted in the area. The only research focus regarding sex and IBS that has received some attention is the fact that a history of sexual abuse has been associated with an increased risk of having IBS. This results in a double whammy of potential sexual difficulties in those IBS sufferers who have suffered this kind of abuse.
So, a sex life with IBS can be a daunting proposition. However, since healthy sexual functioning is an important part of the human condition, it is essential that you do not give up on your sex life due to your IBS.
The Importance of Intimate Communication
The key to having a sex life with IBS is through open communication of your needs and fears with your partner. True intimacy comes from sharing one's most innermost thoughts and feelings. Although it may be uncomfortable to discuss your bowel symptoms with your partner, doing so will only serve to bring you closer.
Granted, not all sexual partners are supportive and understanding. If you are in a long-term committed relationship with a non-supportive partner, couples counseling may be needed in order to help the two of you to re-open healthier lines of communication. If you are only dating a non-supportive partner, I will tell you what I always tell my own patients: "Run!" If the other person is incapable of attending to your emotional and physical needs early on in a relationship, they probably are not a good prospect for a long-term commitment.
Do not be ashamed of your personal needs. You did not ask for this IBS -- it is something that has happened to you. Remember that you share all of your unique gifts with your partner, and that means your unique needs as well. Your partner is also not perfect, as they bring their own blessings and baggage into your partnership.
IBS and Sex: Essential Reading
The following articles, all written by Cory Silverberg, About.com Guide to Sexuality are filled with strategies for discussing and dealing with bowel symptoms during sex. They are essential reading for anyone who wants to enjoy a healthy sex life in spite of having IBS.
In this article, Cory discusses the social obstacles that have complicated the relationship between sex and bowel (and bladder) symptoms. Your fears about experiencing bowel symptoms during sex will be reduced through an improved acknowledgement of the fact that sex is inherently a messy, but wonderful, part of life.
Here you will find step-by-step instructions for talking to your partner about the possible loss of bowel control during sex. Cory's suggestions are so detailed, he practically has the conversation for you!
This wonderful article is filled with practical suggestions for dealing with your greatest fear -- the actual loss of bowel control during sex. Cory's supportive and matter-of-fact approach to the subject does an excellent job of erasing unnecessary feelings of shame.
Leserman, J. "Sexual Abuse: Why It Is an Important Health Risk Factor" The UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders