Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Sexuality Information

Intimacy and Sexuality

  • Assess the client’s pre-operative relationship with their partner or previous relationships they may have had
  • Reassure client/partner that an intimate relationship can resume once their strength is regained and they have healed from surgery
  • Review with the client/partner the changes in sexual function that can occur as a result of various treatments(e.g., surgery, radiation, chemotherapy)
  • Encourage client/partner to communicate their feelings with their partner or care provider
  • Remind client/partner that there are many ways to express themselves sexually
  • Reassure the client/partner that physical closeness will not harm the stoma
  • Inform client that it is not necessary to tell others about having an ostomy unless they feel the relationshipis becoming more serious or intimate

Client Tips for Intimate Situations

  • Plan sexual activity for when the ostomy is less active
  • Avoid foods that may increase gas/odour production
  • Place deodorant drops in the pouch
  • Select a pouch with a gas filter
  • Consider pouches that are opaque or covered with a pouch cover or cummerbund
  • Change to a smaller “mini” pouch or stoma cap
  • Empty or change pouch prior to activity
  • Add an ostomy belt if desired
  • Ensure pouches are secure and well fitting
  • Wear perfume/cologne
  • Wear intimate apparel to increase one’s sensuality and to camouflage the stoma
  • Experiment with different, but comfortable, positions
  • Play music to avoid hearing potentially embarrassing sounds
  • If accidents happen, talk about feelings/emotions

Web Sites

Source: Bressmer et al. (2008) Reprinted with permission.