Managing IBS and Your Sex Life

Intimacy issues for people with irritable bowel syndrome

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Irritable bowel syndrome 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 people with IBS, the fear of losing bowel control results in further avoidance of sexual intimacy.

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.

IBS and Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Quality of life issues related to IBS has long been overlooked by the medical profession, and the impact of IBS 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. Some studies have also found an association between childhood emotional abuse and IBS. This results in a double whammy of potential sexual difficulties in those with IBS who have survived these kinds of abuse.

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 open or re-open healthier lines of communication.

If you are only dating a non-supportive partner, it should be a red flag. 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.

A Word From Verywell

Do not be ashamed of your personal needs. You did not ask for 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. You may benefit from individual or couples therapy if you need help in learning to communicate your challenges and needs to your partner.

Sources:

IBS in Women. The UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders. https://www.med.unc.edu/ibs/files/educational-gi-handouts/IBS%20in%20Women.pdf.

Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Relationships with Abuse in Childhood. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience. 2015 May-Jun; 12(5-6): 34-37.

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