Interstitial Cystitis and Intimacy

One of the first questions a newly diagnosed IC patient asks is, “Will this affect me sexually?” The answer is an absolute yes. Does this have to be a death knell to your sex life?

That answer is a resounding no. Ingenuity is the key to having a productive sex life with this illness. One of the main issues is fear. For the person with Interstitial Cystitis the fear is equated with the sex act and therefore they are less prone to having sex. For the partner of the patient, they do not want to be the “cause” of the pain and therefore they will not initiate. Time passes and eventually they will be having less and less sex, which in turn will make it more difficult when they attempt penetration again. Guilt also plays a big part of the problem. It’s difficult to realize that IC is not anyone’s “fault”. Guilt drives down self esteem and can possible resort in breakdowns of communication. However this does not have to happen to an IC patient. There are many ways to keep sex a productive part of the IC patients life.

1) Keep the lines of communication open. Intimacy is really all about communication. The ability to make a “not tonight” not sound like a slight against the partner, but toward the pain the act would cause. Explain to your partner the why’s of “not tonight” and perhaps offer an alternative suggestion.

2) When you are going to have intercourse, experiment on positions. Most patients surveyed noted that the positions that allow them the least amount of pain were when the woman was on top, where the man was behind, or when a chair was used having the man rock back and forth so as to not thrust. These tend to ease friction and keep pressure off the clitoris.

3) Use ample amounts of lubrication. A water based lube will keep the friction down and allow for less irritation along the outer walls. It’s not unusual for patients to go through half of a tube of lubrication per sexual encounter.

4) Hydrate. Drink lots of water and make sure that you pee afterwards. This cuts down on irritation and it will help pass bacteria transferred during the sex act out of the vagina.

5) Cleanse. Using cool water and no soap, gently wash prior to the sex act and afterwards. This has a double affect of cooling the region (numbing it before, and cooling off “hot spots” afterwards) and cleaning out anything that may irritate.

6) No latex condoms or diaphragm. These two prophylactics have been reported to actually make IC symptoms worse. Talk to your doctor about other birth control options; preferably one that understands IC patient’s needs.

7) Wash your hands. Especially important yet overlooked, men need to wash their hands prior to sex. They may have chemicals, dirt, or other allergens on their fingers or under the nail. This can reduce the inflammation or irritation.

Both men and women suffer from sexual side effects of IC. Men may experience pain with erection, ejaculation, the feeling of pressure or voiding urgency. Women tend to report pain upon clitoral stimulation, during penetration, or during orgasm. Experimentation and communication are the keys to seeing what actions cause pain and which do not. Suggestions to intercourse, called “outercourse”, are oral sex, marital toys, watching sexy videos with your partner, mutual masturbation, and erotic showers. For severe pain nights, you may want to talk to your doctor about home instillation of lidocain or marcaineÃ?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ for a numbing effect. Sex can be tricky with IC, but it doesn’t have to go away completely. As a last resort, if none of the above is working, talk to a therapist. They are trained to deal with sexual tension and may help with your frustration. Pick someone that is familiar with chronic illness so that they are best prepared for your situation. With a creative mind and a loving partner, you may find that the comfort you have finding ways of arousal release is as good as penetration.

Questions To Ask Your Partner:

1)What positions hurt? Which ones feel better?
2)How often do you want to have sex? How often is “not often enough”?
3)What non penetration methods are satisfying to you? (Tell them which ones you enjoy)

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