AGA - American Gastroenterological Association
AGA - American Gastroenterological Association

Planning your IBD life

Planning your IBD life

Intimacy and relationships

Icon of comment bubbles with heart figure in center to signify intimacy
Whether you are beginning a new relationship or already have a long-term partner, it takes practice to feel comfortable talking about how inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can affect you physically and emotionally. Instead of not having hard conversations about your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, try being honest and open about your needs. Doing so can help build trust and intimacy.
Icon of comment bubbles with heart figure in center to signify intimacy

Keep in mind that IBD doesn’t define you

  • If you have a special bond with someone, IBD does not have to get in the way of a meaningful relationship.
  • It is important to consider that intimacy can be many things, including holding hands, cuddling, cooking a meal together. It doesn’t have to involve just intercourse and intercourse isn’t the only way to explore sexuality.
  • Explore sexual intimacy on your terms. Don’t be afraid to make any adjustments to positions that help you feel more comfortable approaching sex or intimate settings.
  • If you feel that IBD is hindering intimacy, talk to your health care provider to get the information and support you need.
    • For example, if there are erectile issues or pain with intercourse, it is important to seek a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist. If there are repeated infections with perianal or genital fistulae, talk with your gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon.
  • Most of all, remember that caring partners will want to help you feel loved and supported.
When it comes to getting intimate, I try to take a comedic approach to the situation. Just shedding light on a subject that may be sensitive to some people more than others and having a sense of humor about it makes it less awkward or uncomfortable.
Joshua Denton,
patient living with ulcerative colitis

When the conversation comes up

  • It’s entirely up to you when and how much you choose to tell about your condition.
  • A positive attitude goes a long way. The more comfortable you feel talking about your IBD, the more comfortable your partner will be in hearing about it.
  • Don’t be afraid to get specific when communicating your needs and boundaries.
    • Example: “I can’t do [insert action] because it causes pain or makes me uncomfortable.”
    • Example: “I may need to use the bathroom before we start.”
This site uses cookies and third-party scripts to provide certain services. View Privacy Policy
Skip to content