Wondering about having anal sex when you have health issues? Here’s what to know.
Thinking about having anal sex for the first time? If you have anal health concerns, there’s much more to contend with than what positions you might be into and navigating the stigma and misconceptions about anal sex and anal play. Depending on what condition you’re living with, you may be good to go with some anal fun or you may have to forgo the experience altogether. Here’s how some anal health issues can be impacted by anal sex.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects 35 millions Americans. While folks who live with IBS might fear that their symptoms, which include pelvic pain, constipation, and diarrhea, would be impacted by anal sex, studies show that that isn’t the case, according to Nicole Prause, a sexual psychophysiologist.
“People who already struggle with this issue are unlikely to be impacted long term from infrequent anal sex,” says Prause, “but should still consider whether the risk is appropriate for the level of difficulty they already experience.”
Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, an acupuncturist who works with many patients with IBS, encourages some to refrain from anal sex altogether. “Anal intercourse can be painful for patients who have a chronic bowel disorder and moreover, I don’t want them introducing any bacteria into the rectum that can cause an infection and irritation.”
IBS can be unpredictable, and if you do want to have anal sex while coping with the condition, you should definitely get comfortable with that fact. Even if you use an enema before having anal sex, that’s no guarantee things won’t get messy. You might want to experiment ahead of time with a butt plug or other sex toy to gauge how it feels for you, and of course, as in any sexual situation, communication with your partner is essential. As one Reddit contributor wrote, “If you want to try it, then try it. But don’t do it because you feel guilty.”
An anal fissure occurs when you tear or crack the lining of your anus, which can happen due to childbirth, constipation, cancer, and other conditions. It usually heals within six weeks, although you will likely experience pain and bleeding, especially when having bowel movements. Anal sex is a giant no-no if you have a fissure, says Prause, since it can lead to infection, and aggravate and prolong the injury. In addition to refraining from anal sex, Prause urges patients to visit the doctor if their fissure isn’t healing on its own.
Crohn’s is a chronic condition involving the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in ulcers in the bowel, as well as anal fissures. (See above.) Here’s the deal with anal sex if you have Crohn’s – those fissures can make you super receptive to STIs. So it’s not that you can’t ever have anal sex if you live with Crohn’s, but you should be super vigilant about using protection and lube.
Even if you don’t have anal health concerns, remember that it’s a myth that anal sex makes it less likely that you’ll contact an STI. “It is actually easier to contract an STI via anal sex because the skin is thinner than vaginal skin so it can tear easily,” says Kara Carpenter, of STDcheck.com. “If your skin is torn, you are at greater risk of contracting an STD because many STDs are spread through contact with infected blood.”
“I’m way too embarrassed to discuss this with my male doctor,” wrote a Crohn’s sufferer seeking advice about anal sex from Go Ask Alice!, Columbia University’s team of health professionals. Alice’s response: to remind this person that doctors, especially gastroenterologists, have definitely discussed anal sex with their patients, so it’s definitely not uncharted territory. You might decide that ultimately, anal sex isn’t for you, but there’s no underestimating the importance of finding a health care provider with whom you feel comfortable and safe.