Many people who suffer with bladder and bowel problems, including incontinence, shy away from hobbies and activities that may affect the problem they are experiencing. Sex is one of these activities. Many find it difficult to discuss continence issues and even more difficult to discuss sexual relations and relationships whilst admitting that they have incontinence.
It has been reported that individuals suffer in different ways in this area both physically and psychologically.
Physically there is the worry of odour, the need to wear continence protection and pads, the potential to leak urine or faeces during sexual activity. Psychologically the issues link more to the feeling of sexuality, feeling less attractive, inability to wear underwear of choice and the whole issue of admitting to the fact of experiencing incontinence.
This seems to be difficult in both long-term relationships and in the development of new relationships. Sometimes isolation within a relationship happens affecting the functionality of a relationship as individuals go to extreme measures to cover up and avoid sexual relations.
A few important steps aid the continuation of a sexual relationship for those experiencing bladder and bowel problems.
- It is vital to empty the bladder before and after sexual activity reducing the risk of a leakage or size of leakage. For individuals who experience urinary tract infections, this aids recurrent infections.
- Use a lubricant, if necessary. Some ladies after the menopause experience dryness of the vagina due to hormone imbalance and this can contribute to the symptoms of an over active bladder (increased urgency and frequency of passing urine) and urine infections. A lubricant designed for use during sexual intercourse should be used.
- Seek advice on pelvic floor exercises. These exercises enhance sexual performance and experience for both men and women. For men, pelvic floor exercises aid the ability and maintenance of an erection. For women, the exercises aid sensation and orgasmic experience alongside aiding control of leakage described as stress incontinence that can happen during intercourse.
- Communication is vital. It is important to talk to partners re concerns and problems, explaining anxieties.
- Ensure personal hygiene is performed as closely before any sexual activity is to take place changing underwear and continence protection. Remember to use a non-scented soap or shower gel as this reduces irritation and the risk of infection in this area.
Continence issues affects many people in differing ways but following some of the steps above will aid how these issues are addressed.
If further advice is needed, please consult the local specialist continence service or your GP for confidential advice and treatment.