We Can Enjoy Sex Even When We Have MS and IBS
Folks, it’s been a few months since I submitted articles about MS and IBS. I’ve been hard at work writing a book titled: Process of Elimination: How to Get MS and IBS Out of Your Life for Good in Five Easy Steps. Nah, I kid.
Balacing sex, MS, and IBS
The real reason for my silence is that I’ve been totally distracted for the past few months. And oddly enough, it has had little to do with either MS or IBS. It has been about having sex, and lots of it. In a life lived normally, sex is about sex. That is how it was in the before time, before I developed MS. But in the years afterward, sex, MS, and IBS all intersect, and always at the most inconvenient moments. And oh, how they intersect, sometimes with a vengeance! I mean, there is an intersection, and then there is a three-car pile-up. Somebody didn’t drive defensively, and somebody didn’t observe the traffic laws. Moving violations are punished in a number of ways.
Take leg cramps. It happens without fail. I am having fun with a partner, my body is being a good sport and allowing me to feel good. And then it happens. I spread my legs just a tiny bit wider. Or I straighten a knee that has been bent for the past fifteen minutes. And a certain someone is maneuvering between my legs, ready to take things to the next level. Little does he know that the next thing to happen is that I shriek, my face suddenly contorting in pain. "Owwww! Wait! My hamstring is cramping..." I massage the underside of my thigh to loosen the muscle. If he is a certain kind of guy, he will immediately work the muscle for me with his big strong hands, so I can relax. If he is not, he sits and waits for the cramp to stop. Either way, it does. Enjoyment resumes.
Then I switch to being on my hands and knees, ready for, well, you know. And without fail, I get a toe cramp, a really bad one. The kind that makes the toes splay grotesquely as if possessed by a demon with a foot fetish. That kind of cramp is the worst. I have to get out of bed and walk on it to get the muscle to let go. It usually comes back again, so I utter a few incantations in Latin and the demon finally flees. Determined to linger on my hands and knees again, a calf cramp then appears. I ignore it and will my muscles to relax. Often, that actually works! But only if I am highly aroused and determined to follow through. Calf cramps are the easiest to manage.
Neuropathic pain, not so much. This is an MS symptom that turns a sex twosome into a threesome. You didn’t invite it, but it won’t leave. For me, it manifests as a burning pain in every orifice, and specific to this scenario, vaginally. It is often triggered by friction. And I never know when or if it will flare-up. I don’t feel vaginal burning until penetration begins. And it isn't a matter of being too dry and needing lube, that's never a problem. So if the burning is too intense, then the game switches to oral. In my case, that is how it is best managed.
Assistance from medication
Be flexible and ready to focus on other kinds of play. And yes, I have consulted my medical team and I do take a number of medications that may or may not help. I take oral gabapentin for general neuropathic pain and it is very good at preventing those painful electric shocks in my thighs and burning in the same area. However, oral gabapentin does not prevent or treat the burning I described. So I am now using gabapentin external cream a few days a week. I also use estrogen cream for painful intercourse. This is something older, postmenopausal women like me can experience. Not sure THAT is working, either. I’m pretty sure neuropathic pain is the culprit. But I’ll try everything I can, just to check all the boxes.
And the stomach issues
And IBS? Irritable bowel syndrome causes me an overly full feeling after eating very little, abdominal distention to the point where I look five months pregnant (I’m 63), pain, and either constipation or diarrhea. I have learned how to manage these symptoms over the years. During sex, things can change suddenly. An elbow in the lower abdomen can set off an intestinal reaction. There was a time or two that I have loudly passed gas. Now, I am totally comfortable with farting in front of people. Took a LONG time to get there. It started when a man would fart in front of me and act embarrassed. I would say: “I demand equal time,” and get him laughing. Then he would visibly relax, and we could go on with the fun. So I thought, if I can be so together about someone else farting, then I can be that for myself, too.
Still focusing on enjoyment
So that’s a little window on my bedroom experience. I will be writing a series of articles about this topic in the near future. I hope the details I shared will resonate and encourage you. We don’t have to let MS and IBS rob us of life’s pleasures. I will write more about things we can do to help make that possible, too.
How well do people around you understand MS?