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What causes cramps after sex?

Both men and women can experience cramps after sex. The medical term for pain before, during, or after sex is dyspareunia.

Cramps may occur after sex for many reasons, ranging from mild muscle strain to underlying conditions that may require treatment.

Read on for more information about the potential causes of cramping or pain after sex.

Causes of cramps in both sexes

A person experiencing persistent cramps after sex should speak to a doctor.
A person experiencing persistent or severe cramps after sex should speak to a doctor.

There are many potential causes of cramps after sex in both men and women.

Muscle strains

Similar to during exercise, straining the pelvic and abdominal muscles during sex can sometimes lead to cramping.

Tight muscles, dehydration, or working the muscle in an awkward position can all cause cramps. These cramps usually dissipate after a few seconds to minutes.

Orgasm

An orgasm can also cause cramps. An orgasm involves the involuntary contraction of the muscles in the pelvis and pelvic floor.

If these muscles continue to contract intensely, they may cause temporary cramps after sex.

Bowel issues

Issues with the digestive system can cause abdominal cramping. Constipation and gas are two common causes of stomach pain after sex.

Other bowel problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, can also cause cramping.

Urinary problems

Likewise, problems with the bladder or urinary system can also cause pain after sex. The bladder sits right in front of the uterus, and intercourse can sometimes irritate it.

This is particularly true if someone has a urinary tract infection or a condition called interstitial cystitis, which causes pain and pressure in the pelvis and urinary system.

Sexually transmitted infections

Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause abdominal cramping, including after intercourse.

Many STIs do not cause any symptoms, so it is best to get tested regularly. Some STIs can also cause discharge from the penis or vagina, as well as pain during urination.

Emotional trauma

Sometimes, past trauma or an emotional issue surrounding sex can manifest as physical discomfort or pain during or after intercourse.

Even everyday stressors and anxiety can build up and cause muscle tension or cramping.


Causes of cramps in women

woman with cramp after sex lying on side on bed holding abdomen in pain
Cramps after sex are more common in women than men.

For women, some possible causes of cramps after sex include:

Deep penetration

Deep penetration, especially against the cervix, can cause irritation and cramping. Injury or infection of the cervix can make it more susceptible to cramping or pain.

Ovarian cysts

The ovaries are two small organs located on either side of the uterus. Sometimes, a cyst grows on or in the ovary.

While these cysts are not usually dangerous, they can cause pain or discomfort after sex.

Ovulation

Each month, one of the ovaries grows a follicle that contains a maturing egg. About 2 weeks before a woman’s period, that follicle ruptures, releasing the egg for potential fertilization and conception.

Having sex around this time can cause abdominal cramping in some people.

Fibroids

Fibroids are growths that occur in the wall of the uterus. They are usually benign, or noncancerous.

They can cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and abdominal pain, as well as cramps, after sex.

Vaginismus

Vaginismus occurs when the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract when a person attempts to insert something.

It can happen during penetrative sex and vaginal medical exams, as well as when a person tries to use a tampon.

Although vaginismus can be distressing, it does not always affect whether a person can become aroused and enjoy other types of sexual stimulation.

A person may need to see a sex therapist, who can help them manage anxiety and recommend relaxation exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises may also help treat vaginismus.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection in the female reproductive system.

STIs such as chlamydia or gonorrhea can cause PID, and it can also occur after medical procedures, such as insertion of an intrauterine device.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is the growth of tissue similar to that which grows in the uterus in places outside of the uterus.

It can cause severe cramping and abdominal pain both during and after sex. Other symptoms of endometriosis include heavy bleeding during menstruation and abnormally painful periods.

Tilted uterus

In some women, the uterus tilts backward instead of leaning forward. The medical term for this is a retroverted uterus.

In people with a retroverted uterus, the penis may put pressure on the uterus during intercourse, which can cause cramps.


Causes of cramps in men

Cramping after sex is not as common in men, but it does occur in some. Some causes specific to males include:

Prostatitis

The prostate is a small, walnut-sized gland in the low pelvis. It adds important seminal fluid to the ejaculate during sex.

If the prostate becomes inflamed, either suddenly or gradually, it can cause pelvic pain during and after sex.


Treatment and prevention

A doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat an infection.
A doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat an infection.

Treating or preventing cramps after sex depends on the underlying cause. In most cases, however, mild cramping after sex is temporary and will go away without treatment.

If the cramps are due to a particular position or act, it may be necessary to stop or change positions to something more comfortable.

If there is a physical or emotional cause for the pain, a person can seek additional treatment. This may include:

  • antibiotics to treat an infection
  • therapy or counseling for anxiety
  • surgery to remove fibroids or a cyst
  • hormonal pills to prevent ovulation or treat an ovarian cyst


When to see a doctor

In most cases, cramps after sex will be minor and temporary, and they will go away without treatment. However, people should speak to their partner about how to prevent cramps in the future.

A person should speak with a doctor if the cramps occur with additional symptoms, such as:

  • a fever
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • abnormal vaginal or penile discharge
  • severe pain or discomfort

The doctor will review the person’s symptoms and do a physical examination. They may recommend some tests to determine the underlying cause of the pain and help develop a treatment plan.

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