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Cramps After Sexual Intercourse - Causes and Management

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Cramps after sexual intercourse can be distressing but are quite common and mostly manageable. Read the article below for more information.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At August 12, 2022
Reviewed AtOctober 13, 2022

What Is Dyspareunia?

Dyspareunia is a term used to refer to pain related to sex. This can mean pain before, during, or after sexual intercourse. Dyspareunia does not necessarily mean just cramps. Different kinds of pain may occur after sex. Cramps are one form of dyspareunia that may be attributed to several underlying reasons.

Who Is Affected by Cramps After Sex?

Both men and women may be affected by cramps after sex. However, they are quite common and need not be a source of worry, as they are often either preventable or manageable.

What Are the Causes for Post-coital Cramps?

Causes for cramps after sex can be shared between sexes or specific to either gender. The reasons may be:

In Women:

1. Disorders:

  • Vaginismus: Automatic tightening of the vagina when something is inserted into it. It is an uncontrollable fear-based reaction that may occur even in those who have previously engaged in penetrative sex. Vaginismus can cause pain and distress but does not affect arousal.

  • Ovarian Cysts: Cysts in the ovaries are not uncommon, but they can be causative of cramps or pain after sex. In some cases, the pain might be caused by the rupture of a cyst.

  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): PID is an infection of the female reproductive organs, typically caused by a sexually transmitted infection.

  • Fibroids: Non-cancerous or benign growths in the uterine walls called fibroids may develop during a woman’s reproductive years and cause pelvic pain, abdominal pain, and cramps after sex.

  • Endometriosis: Endometriosis is the growth of tissue outside the uterus (areas like the ovaries, pelvic tissue, and fallopian tubes) that is similar to the tissue found lining the uterus (endometrium). It can cause excruciatingly painful periods and cramps during and after sexual intercourse.

2. Physiological:

  • Ovulation: Ovulation refers to the time before a woman’s period (usually two weeks before) when the egg is released from the fallopian tubes into the uterus for fertilization. Cramps may sometimes occur during this period.

  • Pregnancy: Cramps after sexual intercourse have been known to occur in pregnant women both in the first and third trimesters. In the first trimester, cramping after sex could indicate pregnancy. In the third trimester, it is usually because an orgasm can cause womb contractions, resulting in cramping.

  • Tilted Uterus: The tilted or retroverted uterus is seen in about 1 in 5 women - it is when the uterus is tipped backward and points towards the lower back. This can cause pressure on the uterus during sex.

3. Other:

  • Deep Penetrative Sex: Deep penetration during sex can be especially troubling for the cervix - it can cause cramping, pain, and irritation.

  • Intrauterine Device (IUD): An IUD is a birth control device inserted into the uterus. It can lead to some cramping for many weeks after insertion. Sexual intercourse during this period may increase the intensity of the cramping sensation.

  • Prostaglandin Sensitivity: In rare cases, women may experience sensitivity to prostaglandin, which is present in a man’s ejaculate or semen. If the male partner ejaculates into the female partner, the prostaglandin may cause sensitivity and cramping.

In Men:

1. Disorders:

  • Prostatitis: The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the penis and the bladder. It is responsible for producing seminal fluid, which transports and nourishes sperm. Inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis) may cause pelvic cramps during and after sexual intercourse.

Both Sexes:

1. Disorders:

  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Urinary tract infections are common causes of cramps. The urinary bladder is located in front of the uterus, and sexual intercourse can irritate due to bladder inflammation in UTIs. Sexual intercourse may result in pelvic pain, cramping, pressure, and pain in the urinary system.

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Sexually transmitted infections can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which in turn can cause pain and cramping in the pelvic region after sexual intercourse. In addition, STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause cramping and pain in the abdominal area.

  • Bowel Disorders: People suffering from digestive troubles like gastric issues may often experience pain and cramping after sexual intercourse. Constipation can cause abdominal cramps after sex. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is also responsible for causing cramps after sex.

2. Physiological:

  • Orgasm: An orgasm is essentially a series of involuntary muscle contractions in the pelvic region. Spasms, tension, and contraction of the muscles in the body (especially the pelvis) are common during orgasm. This can cause temporary cramping immediately after achieving orgasm after sex, particularly if the orgasm is an intense one.

3. Psychological:

  • Trauma: Past trauma, emotional abuse, and anxiety can lead to stress around sex and thoughts of sex. This can cause physical pain, muscle tension, and cramps.

4. Other:

  • Strained Muscles: Muscle strain during sex is also quite common. The pelvic and abdominal muscles would be at risk of cramping due to the straining of these muscles if sexual intercourse were strenuous. However, these cramps are usually temporary and disappear gradually.

How Are Post-coital Cramps Managed?

1. Prevention: The sufferer can do some things to prevent cramps from occurring after sex. These include:

  • Wait: In some cases, nothing needs to be done. The cramps may dissipate independently, and one need only wait and watch.

  • Change Positions: If certain sexual positions contribute to the problem, partners may attempt to find a different sexual position that does not pressure the sufferer.

  • Heat: A heating pad placed over the area with cramps can give some immediate relief. A warm bath can also relax the muscles considerably and reduce the intensity of the cramps.

  • Self-Medicate: Taking over-the-counter medications may be helpful in cases where the pain feels unbearable. However, this should be done with caution and it is not an advisable long-term solution. If severe cramping and pain continue to occur with increasing intensity, it may indicate the need to see a doctor.

2. Visiting a Doctor:

Cramping during sex is not uncommon and should usually be minor and dissipate quickly. However, in cases where there is no dissipation and additional symptoms are present, visiting a doctor may be necessary.

Symptoms that require a doctor’s attention include:

  • Vaginal bleeding.

  • Vaginal discharge.

  • Penile discharge.

  • Severe pain that increases in intensity.

  • Fever.

3. Treatment: Treatment can vary depending on the cause:

  • For Infections: Antibiotic therapy.

  • For Fibroids: Surgery.

  • For Cysts: Surgery.

  • For Ovarian Cysts: Hormonal pills, surgery.

  • For Ovulation: Hormonal pills.

  • For Psychological Reasons (Trauma): Therapy, psychotherapeutic medication.

Conclusion

Cramping after sexual intercourse can put a damper on even the most exciting and pleasurable sexual situations. This does not mean that one may never be able to enjoy sex again. It is, in fact, quite common and treatable or preventable in most cases. Remember to be patient and see if the problem dissipates or visit a doctor in case of extreme symptoms. Either way, some solutions will resolve the cramps and ensure a return to a satisfying and pleasurable sexual life.

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Dr. Raveendran S R
Dr. Raveendran S R

Sexology

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