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Hopefully you feel blissfully exhausted after sex and not too worried about what’s happening to your insides afterwards. But since sex is a full-body activity, it makes sense that you might experience some physical symptoms afterwards.
“Sex means a lot of things, takes a lot of forms, and can have different effects on each of our different bodies,” Dr. Lyndsey Harper, OB/GYN and founder of Rosy, tells Lifehacker. “There are lots of variables at play which can lead to lots of different symptoms and experiences.”
Below is a list of some of the most common physical symptoms that can happen to your body after sex, and why they’re usually nothing to worry about.
“If the cervix (the bottom part of the uterus that lives at the top of the vagina) is touched during sex, it can cause uterine cramping,” Harper explains. “This can feel like cramping you might get before you start your period or after you have a pelvic exam or pap smear.”
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According to Harper, most of the time cramping will stop on its own within 30-60 minutes. She recommends putting a heating pad or hot water bottle on the lower abdomen or taking ibuprofen. If the cramping persists, is severe, or is accompanied by a large amount of bright red bleeding, that’s when she advises seeking medical attention.
Does your belly feel full after sex? TBD Health clinician Lauren Haines says not to worry—bloating is fairly common during and after sex. “Many people can experience bloating due to penetrative sex,” she tells Lifehacker. “Penetrative sex can push air into the vagina or rectum. The air can become trapped, and you may feel some abdominal discomfort or a bloating sensation.”
If you have a uterus, Haines explains bloating can occur more or less often depending on the location of your uterus. “You may need to try different sex positions to help reduce the risk of bloating and improve overall comfort,” she says. “Positions such as cowgirl allow for increased control over the depth of penetration and can reduce bloating and discomfort.”
Fortunately, bloating is typically harmless, says Haines, but if the bloating or pain is severe, follow up with an in-person medical provider for evaluation.
If sex is rough or deep, or if you had penetrative sex with a larger partner or sex toy, Harper says it’s pretty normal the vagina and pelvic floor can feel sore after sex. Likewise, if there was not adequate lubrication, the friction of sex can also cause some soreness afterwards.
Fortunately, Harper says the vaginal soreness will usually resolve in 24-48 hours on its own. “In order to expedite healing, avoid sex during the time of soreness and be sure to take note of what might have caused it in order to potentially avoid it in the future if possible,” she advises. “Lubrication is never a bad idea, and if soreness is from deep penetration, a product like OhNut can be helpful. If soreness persists or worsens, there is associated vaginal discharge or heavy bleeding, then it is time to seek medical attention.”
Is your skin a little flushed after sex? According to Haines, flushing is a very common symptom that can occur during and after sex. “Flushing is a redness of the skin that typically occurs in the face, neck, and chest and is often caused by increased circulation and blood flow during arousal,” she explains. “There are no treatments to prevent flushing, but flushing is completely harmless and normal.”
Occasionally flushing can look like a rash, says Haines, but flushing should never be itchy or cause bumps or hives. “If you develop redness and itching or hives, it could be a sign of an allergy,” she advises. “Allergies can be from sex toy materials, condoms, lubricants, or even your partner’s semen. If an itchy rash occurs, follow up with an in-person medical provider.”
Getting a UTI after sex is pretty common, says Harper, since penetrative sex and clitoral stimulation “can sometimes introduce bacteria to the opening of the urethra during sex. These bacteria can occasionally take hold, multiply, and cause an infection of the urinary tract.”
According to Harper, symptoms of a UTI include pain when you urinate, lower abdominal cramping, and frequent urination. “If you notice these signs, make sure to hydrate with plenty of water and call your medical provider so they can help guide you on the quickest path to recovery,” she advises. “If left unattended, UTIs can progress to more serious infections like kidney infections.”
Do you feel a little achey after sex as you would after a hard workout? Again, perfectly normal. “All people participating in sexual activity may experience muscle strain or muscle soreness after sex,” Haines says. “Some studies show that sexual arousal and orgasm can increase pain tolerance, so you may not realize that certain positions are causing discomfort or strain on your muscles or joints.”
To help combat the pain, she suggests paying attention to your body and switching positions often. If you have any muscle or joint problems such as arthritis, Haines suggests using sex aids like wedge pillows, a Kama Sutra chair, or a sex stool.
Typically mild discomfort may last for up to a few hours or even days after sexual activity. If you experience severe pain or chest pain during or after sex, Haines recommends calling 911. “If you continue experience muscle pain or soreness after sex, you may want to follow up with your in-person medical provider for further evaluation,” she advises.
If women notice some blood in their underwear after sex, Harper says that most cases are due to inadequate lubrication, which can cause small tears on the labia or vagina. “In other cases, light spotting can come from uterine blood if you are about to have a cycle or during pregnancy,” she says.
Fortunately, says Harper, spotting usually resolves on its own after sex within about 24 hours. However, if you have large amounts of bright red bleeding after sex, she recommends seeking medical attention. And if you notice spotting every time or even most times after sex, she also suggests seeing your OB/GYN and have an exam. Additionally, she says, “if you have spotting during pregnancy, inform your doctor at your next appointment or sooner if it persists.”
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