Cramps After Intercourse: Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor

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Cramps After Intercourse: Causes and What to Do About It
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Cramps after sex is a common experience for many women. In many cases, feeling abdominal cramping pain after sex is nothing to worry about and could just be a result of sexual activity. However, stomach cramping after making love could be a sign of an underlying health condition like ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, or a urinary tract infection.

If you experience cramping a day or 2 after intercourse, it could be that the stomach pain is related to your menstrual cycle. For example, ovulation cramping happens mid-cycle and can cause sharp pains in your pelvic area. Sometimes, what feels like cramping after love-making is connected with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infection, or even kidney stones.

Knowing what to do about abdominal cramping during sex or after intercourse is a challenge because it has many causes. Therefore, it’s important to address any underlying cause of the cramping to get rid of the pain. In most cases, however, a warm pack placed on your abdomen can help to ease dull cramping or even sharp stabbing abdominal pains after intercourse.

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Symptoms of Abdominal Cramping after Sexual Intercourse

Pain during intercourse or pelvic pain immediately following intercourse is called dyspareunia. This can involve any kind of discomfort in the pelvic area or vaginal region that you feel after having sexual relations.

According to a survey in Britain, about one in 10 sexually active women experience some kind of painful symptoms after intercourse. Because of embarrassment, many women are hesitant to speak about pain during or after intercourse with their doctor. Some of the other symptoms that were related to abdominal cramping after sex were vaginal dryness, anxiety about intimate relationships, and psychological problems.1

Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on eMedicineHealth says that other symptoms that can accompany cramping after intercourse or during it are sharp burning pain in the pelvic area, muscle tightness, or deep pain in the cervix after penetration.2

Some women also perceive pain without any physical cause and this could have a psychological cause.

Usually, if the pain is very severe or is associated with abnormal vaginal bleeding, rectal pain after intercourse, or unusual vaginal discharge, you should speak to your doctor about your symptoms.

Causes of Abdominal Pain or Cramps after Sex

Let’s look at the causes of abdominal pain and cramping after sex. Knowing what symptoms to look for can help to identify the cause.

Changes in sexual behavior

If you experience cramping the next day after intercourse or right after sleeping with someone, it could be caused by changes in sexual behavior.

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For example, if you have not had sexual intercourse for a while or changed partners, it could result in irritation and inflammation in the vaginal walls that cause cramping pain in the pelvic area after intimate relations.

For instance, Dr. Jacqueline Payne on Patient.info says that deep penetration can scar the nerve endings in the vagina and rubbing against the delicate skin can become sore. Also, the penis can knock reproductive organs like the womb or cervix which will result in pain that is felt deep in the pelvis after sexual relations.

Orgasm

Pain in stomach or cramping after sex could be caused by an orgasm when the uterus contracts.

Dr. Jane Harrison Hohner on WebMD says that cramping after an orgasm can happen because of uterine contractions. This can even cause severe abdominal pain in women when they have an orgasm. Dr. Hohner says that hormones released during intercourse can cause overactive cervical stimulation and abdominal pain after intercourse.4

Semen

Another reason for cramping after intercourse is semen in the vagina from not wearing a condom.

According to the Journal of Pakistan Medical Association, seminal fluid contains hormone substances called prostaglandins. When they come into contact with the lining of the uterus, they can cause cramping and pain in some women.5

Interestingly, PubMed Health says that many women are sensitive to prostaglandins and this is a major cause of period pain in many women. This hormone increases during menstruation and can cause period pain as the muscles in the womb contract and tighten.6

Ovulation

Women who experience cramping a day or so after sex could be experiencing ovulation cramping.

Ovulation happens in the middle of your menstrual cycle and it’s when the ovary releases an egg. According to doctors from the National Health Service, ovulation can cause a sharp sudden twinge on one side of your abdomen. This is also known as mittelschmerz. Doctors say that this type of one-sided pain before your period is normal for many women and nothing to worry about.7

So, if you have sexual intercourse towards the middle of your cycle, it is possible that you feel abdominal cramping a few days after intercourse when ovulation happens.

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Painful abdominal cramping during intercourse or after intercourse can be a sign of a urinary tract infection. UTI can also cause you to have pain when urinating and a need to pee more often.

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UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary tract and cause irritation and inflammation in the urethra, kidneys, or bladder. According to the American Pregnancy Association, one of the symptoms of a UTI is pain during sexual intercourse. You may also have tenderness in the abdomen, back pain, and pass cloudy urine that smells bad.8

For ways on getting rid of the symptoms of a UTI, please read my article on how to treat a urinary tract infection naturally.

Ovarian cysts

If you feel cramps after sex this may be a sign that you have ovarian cysts.

Cysts that occur on the ovaries are a normal part of your menstrual cycle and they usually don’t cause any symptoms and disappear by themselves. According to Dr. Irina Burd on MedlinePlus, a large ovarian cyst can cause abdominal pain and changes to your period. You may also have cramping pain just before your period. However, the cyst on your ovary can also cause intercourse pain if it is bumped during sex.9

You can read more about ovarian cysts in my article on ovarian cysts – warning signs you should not ignore.

Uterine fibroids

If your stomach hurts after sex and you have abnormal vaginal bleeding, it may be a sign that you have uterine fibroids.

Fibroids are benign (non-cancerous) growths that develop around the uterus. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that fibroids can range in size from a small seed to a large lump that makes the abdomen look larger. The common symptoms of uterine fibroids are heavier than normal period bleeding, irregular menstrual bleeding, a need to pee frequently, and backache that reaches down the legs.10

According to researchers from the Cleveland Clinic, painful love making or cramping after sexual activity can also be one of the tell-tale signs of uterine fibroids.11

You can find more information about uterine fibroids in my article about 7 warning signs you may have uterine fibroids.

Endometriosis

In some cases, severe cramping after sex along with abnormal vaginal bleeding can be symptoms of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition where endometrial cells grow on other organs outside of the uterus. According to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler on MedicineNet, endometriosis is a common reason for painful sex and can affect a woman’s ability to conceive. This condition of the reproductive organs can also cause cramping pain while making love.12

If you have cramping but no period, pain during bowel movements, painful urination, and chronic fatigue, you should visit your doctor to see if you have endometriosis.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause severe cramps after intercourse as well as many other symptoms.

PID is a bacterial infection that affects the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It is usually transmitted through intercourse (STD) but bacteria can also enter your reproductive system when having an intrauterine device fitted or getting an endometrial biopsy taken.

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Dr. Louise Newson on Patient.info says that symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include pain during intercourse, spotting after your period, and abnormal vaginal discharge that is yellowish and has a bad odor. However, the most common symptom is mild to severe abdominal pain.

Other Causes of Stomach Pain or Cramping During or After Sex

There can be other causes of stomach pain that may or may not be felt just after intercourse. Some conditions that cause abdominal cramping can be connected to your reproductive system or it could be a gastrointestinal issue.

Implantation cramping

Implantation cramping can happen after ovulation and may be a reason for lower stomach pain after having intercourse.

If you have sexual intercourse around the time of implantation, you may think that the cramping is connected with sex. According to an expert in gynecology Dr. Trina Pagano, mild lower stomach cramping is one of the first signs that conception has taken place. Along with the mild abdominal cramping, you might also have some signs of implantation spotting.

Implantation bleeding doesn’t last long and the cramping associated with it may just be light twinges. So if you have sexual intercourse during the implantation process, it is possible that you feel abdominal cramping after intercourse during that time.

Menopause

You might experience severe cramping at times other than sexual intercourse if you are going through the menopause.

According to the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research, hormonal changes and fluctuations leading up to the menopause can cause irregular periods. This can mean that you experience cramping more frequently and your menstrual cycle becomes erratic.13

However, other symptoms of the menopause may make sexual intercourse painful. According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, vaginal dryness is a symptom of the menopause that can have a serious impact on your intimate relationship.14 This can cause friction and irritation and cause some measure of pain after having intercourse.

If you are approaching the menopause, then you could try some great herbs and natural supplements for coping with menopausal symptoms. Also, there are many essential oils for the menopause that can help calm abdominal pain and cramping naturally and also help improve your mood.

Digestive issues

In many cases, abdominal cramping before or after sex is the result of digestive problems.

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Because problems with your digestive system can happen at any time during your monthly cycle or after sexual intercourse, it can be difficult to identify the cause of cramping.

If you have recurring pain or abdominal pain that doesn’t go away, then this could be caused by condition such as trapped wind, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, indigestion, or constipation.15

According to doctors from the National Health Service, other causes of severe abdominal pain that comes on suddenly are kidney stones, appendicitis, gallstones, or a pulled abdominal muscle.

How to Treat Stomach or Pelvic Cramping after Intercourse

One of the best ways to relieve abdominal pain or cramping after intercourse is to apply a heat pack.

Heat helps to relieve pain by relaxing the abdominal muscles and helping to relieve tension. A heat pack is an effective home remedy for all kinds of cramping including ovulation pain, ovarian cysts, urinary tract infection, and digestive issues.

Dr. Jerry Balentine on eMedicineHealth recommends using a heat pack or hot water bottle to ease cramping and abdominal pain. This can help to reduce the severity of muscle spasms and provide relief from pain in the pelvic area.16

How to use a heat pack to relieve abdominal cramps after intercourse:

You can easily make your own heat pack at home to help get rid of the pain that abdominal cramping causes. This is what you should do:

  1. Fill an old clean sock with rice or another dry grain, leaving a few inches from the top.
  2. Tie the sock securely.
  3. Put the sock in a microwave and heat on full power for 2 minutes.
  4. Wrap the sock in a warm, damp cloth and apply to your abdomen to relieve pain.
  5. Hold on your lower stomach for up to 20 minutes until the pain goes away.
  6. If necessary, place the sock in a microwave and heat for a minute to reheat it.

Cramps After Sex – When to See a Doctor

Most causes of cramping after intercourse get better on their own or can be helped by applying a heat pack. However, in some cases, abdominal cramping after sex or at any other time during your menstrual cycle can indicate a serious problem.

Dr. Jerry Balentine on eMedicineNet recommends seeing a doctor for abdominal pain after sex in the following circumstances:17

  • Your abdominal pain after making love lasts for longer than 6 hours or get progressively worse.
  • You have abdominal pain during pregnancy.
  • The pain in your lower stomach is so severe that you can’t get to sleep or it wakes you up.
  • You feel abdominal cramps that start at your belly button and spread to your right abdomen.
  • Along with cramping lower abdominal pain, you also have signs of an infection like fever, nausea, and/or vomiting.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. BJOG. 2017 Oct;124(11):1689-1697.
  2. eMedicineHealth. What are the symptoms of painful intercourse?
  3. PatientInfo. Dyspareunia.
  4. WebMD. Severe cramp like pain after orgasm.
  5. JPMA. 36:120,1986
  6. PubMedHealth. Period pain: overview.
  7. NHS. Ovulation pain.
  8. AmericanPregnancy. Urinary tract infection.
  9. MedlinePlus. Ovarian cysts.
  10. MayoClinic. Uterine fibroids.
  11. ClevelandClinic. Fibroids: are they making sex painful for you?
  12. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
  13. CEMCOR. Perimenopause: the ovary’s frustrating grand finale.
  14. WebMD. Vaginal dryness: causes and moisturizing treatments.
  15. NHS. Stomach ache and abdominal pain.
  16. eMedicineNet. Abdominal pain in adults.
  17. eMedicineNet. Abdominal pain in adults.
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