Before we begin on our sexy odyssey of discovery, let me leave a specific note for my Dad, if I may:
The following post may contain graphic descriptions of your only daughter holding hands and kissing a human man on the (facial) cheeks. Please look away now thank-you xox
So now that the foreplay is out of the way, let’s light a few hundred Yankee Candles, fire on the Barry White and slip under the covers of my latest post…
There are many reasons why sex and intimacy can be 50 shades of a grey area for those living with IBD (and chronic illness in general). Along with the basic initial difficulties in feeling the ‘urge’, due to pain, bloating, depression, exhaustion and a plethora of other issues; there is also a mountain of physical issues we often have to navigate through before even considering getting our paws on our partner. So here I’ll run through a few of the most common issues and some potential fixes to let you get back…on your back, or otherwise.
For anyone, sickly or not, stress is a very common problem and/or reason for avoiding or simply not wanting sex. For men, sex can often be a stress-reducer, but for women this is rarely the case. Dealing day to day with a chronic illness on top of everything else in life; work, family, home commitments, can be utterly overwhelming, so it stands to reason that doing the horizontal cha-cha is about as far from your mind as enjoyment is to a colonoscopy. In order to feel aroused, you have to be receptive; stress can hinder this, so it’s important to try and work out what your biggest stressors are and focus on how to reduce them. Then cha-cha to your hearts content.
Certainly for women, depression can make our libidos sink lower than a worm’s bra strap. Unfortunately, most antidepressants can have the same effect; decreasing our serotonin transmitters which play a massive role in arousal. You know, the same happy feelings we get when we meet a new kitten or find an unopened jar of Nutella in the cupboard. Although often vital, drugs to ease depression can also decrease libido, hinder ability to orgasm or even interfere with sexual function. If this is your Achilles heel, then first stop isn’t jumping off a cliff with frustration, but to see your doctor to discuss changing medication to something with fewer side effects, and/or to counteract the worst effects for you.
Negative Body Perception
With all IBD can do to our bodies, it’s not surprising that the after effects of this can spread far and wide. Often spreading to the bedroom, where its pyjamas on–lights off before even considering getting close to our beloveds. Our stomachs are often bloated and painful, we are scarred from surgery, and our backsides are often so strained that it feels like we’ve been sitting on a cheese-grater-rollercoaster for 15 hours solid. Not the most alluring, as you can imagine. The bottom line is always, if you feel insecure and unattractive, you don’t necessarily want to take your clothes off. Try to remember that your partner probably doesn’t even notice (or care) that your tum looks like it has an entire bun factory in the oven. All of the issues you are fixated on are utter non-issues for the person who shares your bed. Intimacy and body-confidence is about more than just a physical ‘act’; it’s about sharing everything with one another. If that involves sharing your fears and insecurities, try it; I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the response.
It’s no huge revelation that extreme fatigue is a common symptom of IBD. So when we think of bed, our first thoughts generally drift more towards snoring than sexy-times. Our bodies are sleep-deprived and almost constantly exhausted; we generally need more sleep than sex, and if we’re not sleeping enough, our libido’s shut down. The general solution to this would of course be to ensure we get enough sleep; however that’s hardly realistic in our cases, we couldd be asleep for 100 years and still wake up feeling like we’d gone 10 rounds with Rocky Balboa. Anaemia and iron deficiencies are also common in patients with IBD and they similarly cause an increase in these feelings of sluggishness. See your doctor regularly to ensure you are taking all of the right supplements and getting the iron infusions and/or B12 injections you sorely need.
Last but by no means least, pain and discomfort can be major sex-serial-killers. When you don’t feel good, your desire can take a serious hit. The last thing you want to do is consider sexual gymnastics when you can barely turn over without agonising pain. Sex should always be pleasurable, so if something is painful during intercourse that’s understandably going to cause a decrease in libido. It may initially seem mortifying, but try and talk openly with your partner about how to make things more comfortable – for both of you. Then, and only then, you’ll find yourself livin’ libido loco.
Dad: Obviously all of this comes directly from Cosmopolitan magazine and I haven’t so much as heard Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. Love you bye xox