Sex After SCI: Managing Bodily Functions

This article contains a video
Curated by
Whitney Bailey
Content via Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai
Curated by
Whitney Bailey

Managing bodily functions is an important aspect of life for people post-injury. Mishaps with bladder and bowel functions can be an embarrassing issue especially if they happen while being intimate with another person. Mount Sinai’s website Sexuality and SCI discusses this topic in a video series which aims to redefine sex.

“Those of us with a spinal cord injury, we have a little bit of a more intimate relationship with our urine and our feces, you know it’s just part of the deal, it’s just part of how our bodies work and how we have to manage it,” says Gary Karp, a paraplegic.

Marcalee Sipski Alexander, a physiatrist, suggests doing your bowel program and/or catheterization before having sex. However, if you want to be spontaneous, she says to keep a pad or towels by so you can wipe the mess up quickly if an accident does occur.

Communication with your partner is also important. Do not be afraid to let them know what may happen. Marcalee states, “Make sure that your partner knows that (bodily functions) are a possibility. I think it’s a big thing in people’s minds before it happens. But once it happens, people are like, “Okay, I can deal with that. Keep going.””

Mitch Tepper, a sex educator and counselor, says to be prepared for when things happen. Have an open conversation with your partner. What are you going to do to plan around it?

Mike, a T11/T12 paraplegic says it is important to follow the bowel and bladder regimen that the therapists and doctors teach you in rehab. “All of the regimens they teach you is what gets you back into everyday life. So, if you don’t follow those things you get the embarrassing moments,” he says.

Some key takeaway points include:

  • Accidents can happen. Try to see the humor in it, and plan ahead!
  • Stick to a consistent bowel and bladder routine.
  • Manage your bowel and bladder before sexual activity.
  • Communicate with your partner before sexual activity so they know what to expect.

Remember, everyone is different, so talk to your doctor!

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