UC can be a pain in the butt—but don’t get bummed out yet.
Dating can certainly introduce butterflies in your stomach—but what happens when tummy troubles are more than jitters from a crush? Unfortunately, for those who have ulcerative colitis (UC), their sex life may experience road blocks from symptoms that have them running to the bathroom.
How Does Ulcerative Colitis Interfere with a Healthy Sex Life?
Ulcerative colitis causes symptoms like rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. These may be not only physically painful, but socially disruptive and mentally taxing. Plus, patients with UC might experience rapid weight loss and increased stress—which only puts more strain on a relationship.
Having a constantly upset stomach can severely lower sex drive. Active inflammation, particularly in the rectum, can cause pain with both vaginal and anal sex. You may also have fatigue and generalized discomfort from irregular bowel movements .
Plus, there’s a higher risk for fistulas, which are abnormal connections between two organs. In the case of UC, tunnels form between the intestine and the skin. Fistulas can be painful, but they can also cause leakage of bowel contents. Many would be fearful of having an accident in bed (particularly with anal sex) without having an IBD condition. This extra layer could seriously deter someone with UC from hopping in the sack.
Hacks to Put Your Gut at Ease, So Foreplay Doesn’t Become Just a Tease
- Plan sex for when you have the most energy during the day: Not only will you have something to look forward to, but this will also help you prepare and schedule a bathroom trip prior, or take anti-diarrheal medicine (with your doctor’s approval).
- Consult your doctor about your symptoms: Whether it’s fatigue, abscesses, or blood in your stool, together you can find the appropriate therapies. That way, UC doesn’t become an obstacle in your day-to-day, or night-to-night as it were.
- Be honest with your partner: Their priority should be making you feel good, and they’ll want to know what doesn’t. Be adventurous! Try different sexual positions and other ways of being intimate that don’t involve penetration.
Talk to your doctor if your UC symptoms are getting in the way of your (sex) life, because it might mean your current treatment plan isn’t working. Learn more about the risks of untreated ulcerative colitis.
Dr. Kayal is a gastroenterologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.