Sex is romantic, fun, exciting, and something to look forward to. Wish that was true for everyone. For people who suffer because of sex, the same fun and romantic thing turns into something horrible and painful. Sex can become a nightmare if it is followed by aches and cramps. One of the most common cramps experienced by people is stomach pain after sex.
In medical terms, pains associated with sex are called dyspareunia. It means pain before, during, or after sex. It can occur to both men and women, straight or gay, with a partner, or while masturbating. There can be many causes for such pains or cramps. It is found that women suffer more due to dyspareunia. But even men can suffer for several reasons. First, let us look at the various reasons for stomach pain after sex and how to resolve the problem.
Why Women Get Stomach Pain After Sex
1. Sex Position
Sure, you are adventurous and like to try out all the exciting positions with your partner. But could that be the reason for stomach pain after sex? One of the first things gynecologists ask their patients is about the sex positions they do most. Even missionary or doggy style could hurt, and patients are advised to avoid them.
How does sex position matter? Well, the sex position decides how deep the penetration is. A deep penetration could hurt the cervix, causing irritation and cramping. The pain could be even worse in case of injury or infection in the cervix.
Does that mean you can never try out fun positions? Of course, you can. According to Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB-GYN at Yale New Haven Hospital, you can pop a Motrin, Tylenol, or any over-the-counter pain medicine. “Taking one or two an hour before sex can be very helpful for some women,” says Minkin. You can also try other fun positions, such as cowgirl or face-off, where you are on top and in control.
Fibroids are a common problem among women. They are non-cancerous tumors in the uterus that are sometimes the cause of stomach pain after sex. The pain depends on the size and location of the fibroids in the uterus. Fibroids are usually benign, small, and grow in multiples. When you visit your gynae for pelvic muscle cramps during or after sex, the doctor might suggest an MRI or an ultrasound of the pelvic area and prescribe a treatment.
Between two to ten percent of women get affected by this condition. According to the Office on Women’s Health, “Endometriosis happens when tissue similar to the lining of the uterus (womb) grows outside of the uterus. It may affect more than 11% of American women between 15 and 44.” A common symptom of endometriosis is stomach pain after sex. The pain can surface even during sex as deep penetration puts pressure on them.
Sometimes endometriosis can lead to dense adhesions. This happens when the condition aggravates to the point that pelvic tissues and neighboring organs stick to each other. Having sex can be even more painful in such situations. An ultrasound or a laparoscopy can be quite helpful in detecting and treating this problem.
4. Ovarian Cysts
Ovaries are a pair of female organs where the eggs form and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are made. Many women have ovarian cysts, and they do not show any symptoms. These cysts are fluid-filled sacs or pockets that grow on or in an ovary. They lessen in a few months and do not call for any treatment. They are harmless but sometimes may cause stomach pain after sex, especially pelvic cysts. Pelvic cysts form from scar tissue due to some surgeries before or some infection. If you see these symptoms, then perhaps you have ovarian cysts:
- Pain in the lower back
- Feeling fullness in your lower abdomen
- Gas and bloating
- Pain in the lower pelvic region
Laparoscopy helps in removing such cysts. However, it is better to consult a doctor before starting any medication.
5. Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is caused by two reasons mostly – one, you are using some birth control pills or other medications which are drying up the vaginal area; two, you are reaching menopause. In both situations, you could speak to your doctor, who can prescribe you some medicine, vaginal estrogen, or vaginal DHEA. You can use some lube while in the act, which will relieve you of muscle cramps in the abdominal area.
6. Tilted Uterus
It is absolutely normal to have a tilted uterus. About thirty percent of women have a uterus that tilts backward. This is known as a retroverted uterus. In that case, the penis may put pressure on the uterus during sex. This leads to stomach pain after sex.
But sometimes, the uterus tilts due to scar tissue from infection or endometriosis. Even then, sex could be painful. This is because the scar tissues touch the other organs like small intestines. During sex, these organs might get pushed or pulled with deep thrusts. And that leads to muscle cramps in the pelvic area.
When you visit your doctor, he will examine the reason for the tilted uterus. He will then recommend treatment based on his findings. Also, you might be asked to try out other positions where the penetration is shallow.
Vaginal infections are not unusual for sexually active people as they are generally contracted through sex. These are known as STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases. These infections are found in the vagina. But they can also spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. When that happens, it leads to pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID).
Having infections in the pelvic region causes a lot of discomforts. This can worsen during sex as the penis stimulates an already irritated area. As a result, one experiences vaginal pain or pelvic pain. The infection could be a current one or even a past one. According to gynecologists, a past PID can also cause stomach pain after sex if there is pelvic scarring. This pain can be reduced with the help of pain medicines. And in worse situations, a laparoscopy might be needed.
Ovulation is the time of the month when the mature egg gets released for fertilization and conception. Around this time, many couples have sexual intercourse to get pregnant.Some women might feel cramps around the pelvic area due to ovulation, which flare up during sex.
It could also be due to the sex position. Many couples trying to conceive use deeper penetration positions. This could hurt the uterus, which leads to cramps and pains in the pelvic area.
Infertility is a growing problem. It is affecting an increasing number of families. Couples feel mental pressure if they are unable to have a baby. So, they try many things, like infertility treatments to various sex positions. They keep track of ovulation dates, and despite their busy lifestyle, they pressurize themselves to have sex. This anxiety can also manifest into physical discomfort leading to stomach pain after sex.
In such situations, visiting your OB-GYN is a must but not sufficient. Couples should also go for therapy and counseling. This would help them distress and enjoy sex. And not get anxious about having a baby to the point of losing their peace. It has been noticed many times that when couples start enjoying sex without any worries, they tend to conceive more easily.
Stress about sex is not just limited to feeling the pressure of having a baby. A woman can have a subconscious fear of sex. This is discernible from the way her body reacts to sex. During penetration, the fear of something entering her body can make her vagina tighten upon penetration. She may be aware of this sexual stress, but sometimes it can happen involuntarily. This leads to cramps in the pelvic muscles leading to stomach pain after sex.
If you notice the following symptoms, you must consult a sex therapist to help you resolve the issue:
- Pain during penetration
- Fear of sexual activities (and I don’t mean BDSM)
- Difficulty wearing a tampon
- Stress during vaginal examination by a doctor
A sex therapist will suggest relaxation exercises and pelvic exercises. He will also tell you how to deal with anxiety.
10. Uterine Prolapse
Uterine prolapse is a condition where the uterus moves into the vaginal canal. This happens when the pelvic floor muscles and the ligaments stretch and weaken. They are no longer able to give the required support to the uterus. It generally occurs post-menopause. Women who gave more than one vaginal delivery tend to be more at risk.
Apart from pregnancy and childbirth, there are other causes of uterine prolapse as well. They are obesity, menopause, hormonal changes, straining on the toilet seat, etc. According to Jill Purdie, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn and medical director at Pediatrix Medical Group, “During intercourse, the penis may come in contact with the uterus, which can cause stomach pain for two reasons. First, it may cause the uterus to cramp due to contact. Second, intercourse may move the uterus up and down, which will often cause a dull, achy pain after sex.”
To fix this issue, one can practice Kegel exercises. “Often pelvic floor physical therapy will be very helpful to retrain and strengthen the pelvic floor,” says Purdie. “In cases of prolapse, some women may need surgical intervention to reposition the pelvic organ back into its correct location.”
During periods, many women suffer from abdominal cramps. This can further enhance while having sex or afterward. This is because the uterine muscles contract and put pressure on the cervix. While some women prefer taking ibuprofen or other OTC (over-the-counter) medications, some swear by heating pads during periods. This helps reduce stomach pain after sex considerably.
Why Men Get Stomach Pain After Sex
The prostate is a small gland that is located below the bladder. It is about the size of a walnut. The primary function it does is to produce a fluid (seminal fluid) that nourishes and transports sperm during ejaculation. Men can experience stomach pain after sex when the prostate becomes inflamed. This inflammation can be sudden or gradual. In that case, men experience pelvic pain during or after sex.
Causes in Common with Both Genders
Even the most pleasurable thing can also lead to painful after-effects. Orgasm can also be the reason for stomach pain after sex. The explanation is quite simple. When you are orgasming, the vaginal walls contract. That leads to the involuntary contraction of the pelvic muscles. If the contractions get very intense, it leads to cramps and aches in the stomach. But these are temporary cramps and dissipate after some time.
2. Muscle Strain
Just as sometimes you strain a muscle while working out, it is common to have strained pelvic or abdominal muscles while in the act. This leads to cramping and aching of the stomach. Some common causes of muscle cramps are dehydration, muscle tightness, or fatigue. It could also be that you positioned yourself in a way that the muscles are working incorrectly. Such pains do not last long. But it is vital to keep yourself hydrated. Also, get a massage and relax your strained muscles.
3. Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Usually, there are hardly any symptoms if you get any sexually transmitted disease (STD). But sometimes, one might get pains in the lower abdominal area after having sex.
Two of the most common STDs are chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can cause stomach pain after sex.
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that people get during sexual intercourse. It can lead to fertility problems. If the infection spreads toward the uterus and the fallopian tubes, it may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Symptoms of chlamydia in females –
- Itching around the pelvic bone
- A yellow discharge from the cervix
- Frequent or painful urination
- Vaginal or rectal pain
- Vaginal or rectal bleeding
- Irregular periods and spotting between periods
Symptoms of chlamydia in males –
- pain, tenderness, and swelling in the testicles or the urethra
- rectal pain or bleeding
Another common sexually transmitted infection that can be the reason for stomach pain after sex is gonorrhea. It is hard to detect as gonorrhea usually does not have any symptoms. If it goes untreated, it may further spread the infection to the uterus and the fallopian tubes, leading to PID. So, if you see any of the following, you should contact your doctor:
Symptoms of gonorrhea in females –
- Burning sensation while passing urine
- Green, yellow, or bloody vaginal discharge
- Heavy bleeding between periods
Symptoms of gonorrhea in males –
- White, green, or yellow discharge
- Inflammation or swelling of the foreskin
- Pain or swelling in the testicles
What to do – the best way to avoid stomach pain is to use safety measures like condoms to prevent transmitting STDs. Also, you need to keep visiting your doctor for routine checkups so that early detection is possible.
6. Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are at the top of the list of most common causes of stomach pain after sex. Both men and women can have UTIs. But it is more common in women. The infection can affect any organ of the urinary system – kidneys, uterus, bladder, and urethra. Urinary tract infections cause a lot of discomfort in the form of pain and burning sensation. Having sex can further aggravate the pain. The pain can be particularly serious if someone has interstitial cystitis.
What if you don’t know whether that stomach pain is due to UTI… or is this something else? It is better to consult your family physician to identify the problem. For symptoms like frequent urges to pee, pelvic pain, or a burning sensation when passing urine, the doctor may suggest some tests to check for UTI.
7. Bowel Issues
Sometimes, when you are constipated, it leads to gas and gas-related pains. Such pains tend to get severe with any kind of physical movement. This stands true for sex too, as sex involves a lot of physical movements, especially during penetration. One tends to feel discomfort in the rectum also. “When you’re constipated, your bowel puts pressure on your vagina,” says Laura Purdy, MD, a board-certified family medicine physician in Franklin, Tennessee.
To avoid stomach pain after sex due to gas and other bowel issues, you must include a lot of fiber in your food. Also, stay hydrated well enough. And try to avoid food that makes you gassy.
8. Emotional Distress or Anxiety
It is not necessary that the reason for stomach pain after sex has to be physical always. Sometimes it can be due to emotional reasons also. The following emotional issues can manifest as physical suffering at times:
- Some past trauma (could be sex-related or not)
- Some emotional issues (mostly surrounding sex)
- Or even the stressful life that we lead
“Pain after sex might come from emotional distress rather than a physical cause,” says Amy Roskin, MD, JD, and a board-certified ob-gyn. “Sometimes prior sexual trauma can cause feelings of discomfort or pain during or after sex.”
How do we know if the stomach pain is due to emotional stress? First, you’ve got to speak to your doctor, who will analyze all possible causes and identify the issue. Then she might refer you to a licensed mental health professional who can treat your emotional traumas and guide you on how to relax your mind.
Does stomach pain after sex mean pregnancy?
If you have unprotected sex and feel cramping in your pelvic region after one or two weeks, it could mean any of two things – either due to an oncoming period or implantation. Cramping is one of the first signs of pregnancy. However, most women don’t feel it. It occurs due to the implantation of a fertilized egg to the uterine wall, which leads to stomach ache.
How long does lower stomach pain after sex last?
Some pains do not last very long. They usually subside in a few hours. Some cramps are period or ovulation related. So, the cramps last only till the period stops, or till the ovulation takes place. Pains related to ovarian cysts last till the cysts are there. But if the pain doesn’t lessen within two to three months, it is better to consult a doctor.
Visit Your Doctor. No Procrastination.
You must visit your family physician or your Ob-Gyn immediately if you do not understand why you have stomach pain after sex. It could be nothing serious, hopefully. Or it could be some underlying cause that, if left untreated, might worsen the pain and the treatment. You should not wait if you see additional symptoms, such as
- Dull or recurring pain
- A fever
- Vaginal bleeding when not on periods
- Green, yellow, red, or any abnormal or foul-smelling vaginal or penile discharge
“If your pain persists for more than one to two days after intercourse or is not relieved with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, you should consider giving your doctor a call,” says Purdie. She maintains that we agree, “Any time you are concerned, it is never wrong to call or visit your doctor.”
When the problem is more anxiety-related than physical, it is better to get help from a sex therapist. A sex therapist is a qualified healthcare professional who helps people with sexual problems. She can help alleviate stress and emotional barriers that could be the underlying reason for stomach ache after sex.
Treatment or Prevention at Home
Some cramps are temporary and can be treated at home, such as periods or ovulation pains, stomach pains due to constipation, or gas. You can prevent some problems too, like STDs and vaginal dryness. Here are some tips that you can follow to avoid stomach pain after sex:
- Take medicine for specific issues that deal with the cause of the pain, like Ibuprofen.
- Use heating pads for period-related cramps before intercourse.
- Stay hydrated to avoid strained muscles, or to stay away from constipation and gas. So, make sure you are drinking enough water.
- Use appropriate contraceptives like condoms to stay away from sexually transmitted diseases.
- If using birth control pills, be sure they are not leading to other problems such as vaginal dryness.
- Try out different sex positions to avoid deep penetration. You can spice things up with role-play and foreplay. The idea is to keep playing till you find your sweet spot.
So, if you were wondering why you get stomach pain after sex, one of the above could be the reason. Or it could be something else. Whatever your situation is, you should not just ignore it. To begin with, speak to your partner if you are in a committed relationship. Find out whether it could be treated at home, or maybe you could try other sex positions. Whether you have a partner or fly solo, you must visit a doctor to identify and treat the root cause. And then you can once again enjoy what is supposed to be pleasurable, romantic, and the sexiest thing to do.