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The Impact of Inflammatory Bowel Disease on Intimacy: A Multimethod Examination of Patients' Sexual Lives and Associated Healthcare Experiences.

BACKGROUND: Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can negatively impact sexual well-being, and some patients desire healthcare for these issues. Research capturing the lived experiences of patients in these areas is lacking. The present study investigated the sexual well-being impacts of IBD (objective 1) and patients' experiences accessing support for these concerns in the healthcare system (objective 2) through multimethod analyses.

METHODS: A total of 480 adults with IBD were recruited for an online survey study. Reflexive thematic analysis was used to analyze responses to 2 open-ended questions (ie, qualitative data; question 1, n = 326, question 2, n = 309). Frequency analyses and contingency tables were used to analyze quantitative data (n = 436).

RESULTS: Thematic analysis (objective 1) generated 8 themes highlighting the negative impacts of IBD on patients' sexual/intimate lives (eg, sexual activity, intimate relationships) and the influence of broader psychosocial experiences (eg, self-perception, mental health) on patients' sexual well-being. Quantitative analyses (objective 2) indicated that 39.2% of participants wanted sexual health information from a healthcare provider, but only 5.7% of our sample reported both wanting and receiving this information. Thematic analysis generated 5 themes highlighting the lack of support and information available for sexuality concerns in IBD healthcare and detailed patients' perceived barriers to obtaining support in this area.

CONCLUSIONS: IBD has myriad impacts on patients' sexual lives. However, patients who want healthcare in this area rarely receive satisfactory support.

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