Counseling Sessions May Improve Sexual Well-Being of Women With Permanent Intestinal Ostomy

Counseling Sessions May Improve Sexual Well-Being of Women With Permanent Intestinal Ostomy

A permanent intestinal ostomy is a surgical procedure for which a small opening is made in the abdomen to redirect waste from the intestines out of the body, usually into a pouch worn outside the body. It is typically done when the lower part of the intestines or rectum is removed or not functional, helping people with conditions like colorectal cancer, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis to manage their bowel movements. It is a lifelong solution, and although it may take some adjustment, it can greatly improve the quality of life for those who need it.

Colorectal cancer often leads to gastrointestinal ostomies, including permanent intestinal ostomies. Challenges for ostomy patients encompass physical, psychological, social, and sexual health aspects, affecting one’s quality of life. Despite its importance, sexual health is often overlooked in healthcare.

As such, a team of researchers designed a study to investigate the impact of sexual counseling on the sexual function and quality of life of permanent intestinal ostomy patients in southeastern Iran. They believed that this form of counseling, which aims to provide support, education, and resources to address sexual function difficulties, could ultimately enhance the study participants’ overall well-being. Understanding and addressing potential sexual health issues is an important step towards improving the lives of ostomy patients.

For the study, the researchers recruited 60 female patients with permanent intestinal ostomy in southeastern Iran. The patients, aged 18 to 45, all reported sexual dysfunction and demonstrated regular attendance at counseling sessions. They were divided into two groups: the intervention and control groups.

The members of the intervention group received sexual counseling over four weeks, while those in the control group received routine education about ostomy care without sexual health guidance. Before and after the intervention, participants completed surveys about sexual function and quality of life: the Female Sexual Function Index and the Sexual Quality of Life Questionnaire–Female. The collected data was then analyzed using various statistical tests.

In the end, the researchers found no significant differences in age, partnered relationship duration, or other demographic variables between the women in the two groups. Before the intervention, both groups had similar levels of sexual functioning. However, after the counseling sessions, the women in the intervention group showed a significant improvement in sexual function compared to the women in the control group.

Interestingly, this improvement persisted even after considering factors like age and disease duration. Additionally, the intervention group experienced a significant increase in sexual quality of life after counseling, while the control group’s sexual quality of life decreased.

These results suggest that sexual counseling positively impacted the sexual function and quality of life of female patients with permanent intestinal ostomies. Previous research has also showed positive effects of counseling on sexual quality of life in various populations, such as postpartum women and breast cancer survivors. Accordingly, these findings highlight the importance of addressing sexual health in ostomy care. Nevertheless, this study was limited by its small sample size, so further research with larger cohorts is needed to better understand the long-term effects of sexual counseling on ostomy patients’ well-being.


  • Sohrabi, F., Tirgari, B., Safaei, M., & Alizadeh, S. (2024). Effects of sexual counseling on sexual function and sexual quality of life of women with permanent intestinal ostomy. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 21(4), 311–317.

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