Sex is complicated. I often wonder if we knew that there were consequences up front, would we ever even bother with it at all? Some consequences are obvious: pregnancy, STIs, that kind of thing. But there’s a larger group of less commonly discussed after-effects that can undermine our sexual wellness, and because we don’t discuss them very often, they can feel like they’re unique to you.
But they’re not. Well, probably not. Here are four unexpected outcomes of sex that no one ever talks about, but affect us all. These are the consequences that are less serious, but more… annoying, because what we always expect to be post-sex bliss is always that.
The Post-Climax Headache
Sex can induce headaches. For real. Anything from a tension-type headache to a migraine can be triggered by sexual activity, particularly during orgasm. There are two reasons for this, according to the creatively-named National Headache Foundation: sexual excitement can lead to contractions in the head and neck muscles, causing a tension headache, or, it can be triggered by the sudden increase in blood pressure and heartrate associated with climax.
It’s temporary for most people, a distraction if nothing else, and it will fade away as your vitals return to their baseline. But if it’s a regular occurrence, and often inhibits the pleasure of – and desire for – sex, then it might be worth mentioning to your GP.
If it happens, you can usually take a pause from sex to allow it to subside, and you can generally fight them pre-emptively with anti-inflammatories or migraine-specific medications.
Sex can trigger an asthma flareup if you’re not on top of it… so to speak. Generally, sex uses up the same kind of energy and output as a brisk walk, so if brisk walks trigger your asthma, sex is also likely to. Chest tightness, shallow breathing, coughing, and wheezing can all be side-effects of sex for asthmatics, and they can come out of the blue, when you’re feeling relatively ‘normal’, whatever that means.
This sucks. A study published in early 2019 showed that severe asthma can have an impact on physical and emotional intimacy in sexual relationships, partly due to the anticipation of exhaustion, and partly due to the anxiety that an orgasm might induce sever bronchospasms or an asthma attack.
You need to be sure that your medication is up to date, and that your partner is aware of the potential problem too. Mindfulness training is a useful tool to stave of the anxiety, and so is the reassurance of having an inhaler nearby. Being on top during sex may also help, since it relieves the pressure that might otherwise be on your chest.
If you’ve ever had an inexplicable feeling of sadness, or an unplaceable sense of anxiety after sex, you’re really not alone. It’s surprisingly common and in the past couple of years increasing amounts of research has been done into it. It’s been given a name to describe it, post-coital dysphoria, and a study of 230 women found that 46% of them had experienced it, and 5% experience it regularly. It’s particularly confusing, because of its unpredictable nature: it can sometimes strike when everything about the sex was otherwise good. Our bodies are weird like that.
It’s mostly quite short-lived and can be treated with simple practices like deep-breathing techniques and good communication with your partner – that’s the key to healthy sex regardless of circumstances. If you have a counsellor or therapist of any kind, mention it to them so they are aware of it in your wider psychological profile, and don’t be afraid of it.
The need to pee after sex is common to everyone, regardless of gender or anatomy. It’s probably safe to say that everyone who has experienced orgasm is also familiar with the post-sex pee urge. But it might take a step up in seriousness if you encounter a regular burning sensation or pink-tinted urine after intense sex, as this might be a case of what’s informally known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. During vigorous sex, microscopic tears in the vagina or urethra can allow bacteria into the bladder, leading to a urinary tract infection.
See a doctor if you suspect it’s an infection. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and a lot of the time to issue is simply down to irritation or inflammation than infection. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies available for you if that’s the case. As always, stay hydrated to help flush out the bacteria and avoid penetrative sex until the symptoms are gone.