When a romp in the sheets leaves you with cramps instead of pleasure-coated flushed cheeks and disheveled bedhead, you might be a bit perplexed (and annoyed).
The bright side? A lot of people experience this postcoital cramping, even if they don’t talk about it. In fact, one British study found that 1 in 10 women experience pain from sex.
Since cramps suck no matter when they happen, here’s everything we know about why cramps happen after sex — and how to start feeling better.
There are lots of reasons both men and women can experience cramping after sex, although it’s something that does seem to be more common for women.
If you have a vagina, it might be…
Urinary tract infection
If you have sex while you have a UTI, you may experience some discomfort in the form of cramping — not to mention it can make your UTI worse.
Your bladder is right in front of the uterus, and when you have sex, your urethra comes in contact with bacteria from the genital and anus and can irritate an existing infection (or even cause one).
Sometimes cramping after sex isn’t a sign that something is wrong — it could just be a sign that your partner penetrated you a little too deep. Penetration against the cervix can lead to an uncomfortable irritation or cramping, especially if you’ve had any issues with your cervix in the past.
It’s not you, it’s your partner
Semen may be the culprit here. It contains something called prostaglandin, a hormone-like substance that some people are very sensitive to. If your partner ejaculates into you and you’re sensitive to it, it could cause cramping.
Cysts that grow on the ovaries are common and oftentimes completely harmless. However, even if they’re not doing anything serious down there, they could be causing pain after sex.
It’s that time of the month
Your period can cause cramps whether you’re having sex or not, so it makes sense that it can cause cramping after sex. You may not feel the cramps during sex (or you may just be distracted), but they could easily come on strong when you’re done.
Every month, about 2 weeks before you get your period, your body prepares your body for possible pregnancy. During this time, an egg is released from your ovary for potential fertilization. This is called ovulation.
You may not even realize it’s happening, but this can sometimes cause cramping, especially after sex.
Uterine fibroids are benign growths that develop from the muscle of the uterus. Sometimes they don’t cause any symptoms at all, but some will experience pain from fibroids, especially during or after sex.
Vaginismus is a spasm or a contraction of the muscles around the vagina. It usually happens when someone is trying to insert something into their vagina, like if you’re trying to insert a tampon or if you’re having sex.
This often causes pain during sex, but it can also lead to pain and cramping after sex.
An IUD sits in the uterus to act as an effective form of birth control, but because it’s a foreign body, it can sometimes cause pain or discomfort. Some women may feel cramping after sex if their IUD has made any uterine movement.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection in the reproductive organs often caused by an STI. It has a few side effects, including pain like cramping and discomfort after sex.
A painful disorder, endometriosis is when the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside of your uterus. It’s known to cause severe pain and cramping during and after sex.
Sometimes it’s just about the way your body is built. If you have a tilted uterus (which means your uterus leans back instead of forward), you may feel pressure on your uterus during sex, which causes cramping.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, it’s very common to feel regular cramping, almost as if you’re about to get your period. If you’re in the first trimester, it’s possible that cramping after sex could be due to pregnancy.
If you have a penis, it might be…
Prostatitis refers to the swelling or inflammation of the prostate gland. If the prostate becomes inflamed during or after sex, this can lead to a cramping feeling.
It might also be…
Orgasms are supposed to make you feel good, but sometimes they can also make you feel, well, not so great. An orgasm is really just a muscle contraction, and any kind of muscle contraction can lead to strain or discomfort, like cramping after sex.
Sexually transmitted infections
STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pain and discomfort, including cramping after sex. Since these often don’t cause other obvious symptoms, you may not even know you have one.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Constipation and gas, two common symptoms of IBS, can often lead to cramps during or after sex. IBS can also cause other uncomfortable stomach and bowel issues that just may not leave you feeling great.
Survivors of sexual assault or anyone with a history of physical or emotional trauma surrounding sex may feel physical pain during or after sex, like cramping.
If you suspect this, chat with your healthcare provider. They can connect you with the right medical pros who can help you find an effective treatment plan.
In order to figure out how to treat your cramps, you first need to figure out exactly why they’re happening. Treatment will vary depending on what’s going on behind the scenes.
Switch it up
In many cases, simply changing positions can get rid of cramps. Try to find a position that puts less pressure on your cervix and avoid doing anything adventurous. You may need to experiment a bit to find something that works for both you and your partner.
Wait it out
Cramps after sex are often temporary and will just go away without you doing anything. If the pain isn’t too bad, you can wait it out and let them dissipate on their own time.
Take over-the-counter meds
If the cramps are really bad, take an OTC medication, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can take this while you’re experiencing the cramps or before having sex to prevent pain.
Add some heat
To ease the pain of cramps in the moment, try slipping into a hot bath or putting a heating pad over the area. This adds some heat to relax the muscles and help the pain ease up.
Go to therapy
If you suspect trauma is the driving force behind your cramps, you may want to seek professional help from a licensed therapist.
Again, cramping during sex should get better on its own. If it’s not, or if it’s progressively getting worse, you may want to consider reaching out to a doctor.
You should go to a doctor if your pain is severe, happens all the time, or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as bleeding, fever, discharge, or other signs of an infection.