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Sex And Intimacy

How Surgery Can Affect Sexuality

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General advice is to wait for several weeks from the date of surgery before having sex. If you have a question about when sex is okay, speak with your surgeon or his or her nurse.

Possible side effects of surgery which can affect sexuality include:

  • Physical changes including scarring, and possibly an ostomy. If an ostomy is in place, your image of your physical self may be lowered.
  • Changes in sensations.
  • Urinary or bowel dysfunction (“Incontinence”) which can make a person anxious about engaging in sex because there may be a leak or smell. There may be concern about what your partner thinks.  Incontinence can lead to not wanting to start sex. It can also lead to a lack of desire, or a desire to respond, particularly if nerves are damaged.  (For tips about dealing with incontinence, click here.)
  • Pain – which can affect interest in being sexually active in addition to the function of sexual organs. For tips about dealing with pain, click here
  • Men:
    • Erection difficulties  (For information about dealing with erection difficulties, click here.)
    • If you have an abdominal perineal resection, you can have “dry” orgasms if there is damage to the nerves that control ejaculation. In some cases, the surgery causes semen to go backwards into your bladder (“retrograde ejaculation”). If you want to have a child and experience retrograde ejaculation, sperm cells which can be used to impregnate a woman can be recovered from your urine. If sperm cells cannot be recovered from your semen or urine, it may be retrieved directly from your testicle by minor surgery. 
    • Orgasm pleasure may become less intense.
  • Women: May experience diminished orgasm.

NOTE: Safer sex techniques will prevent pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. (For information about safer sex techniques, click here. 

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