Why do I feel sick after sex? 7 reasons you might feel nauseous after sex

From enthusiastic sex to something more serious, here's why you might be feeling sick after intercourse

Woman in bed wondering why do I feel sick after sex
(Image credit: Getty Images/Canva)

The experts share what might be behind your symptoms and how best to make them go away, so you can enjoy intercourse without worrying that it might make you want to vomit.

Wondering why have I gone off sex lately? For some, it may be because you’re skipping foreplay and missing out on some of the fun in the process. You can solve that by exploring what is tantric sex – a slow sex trend that’s more wholesome than it sounds. Others may be trying to conceive, which has the potential to make love-making a bit of a chore. Trying fun sex positions for conception could help here. Another reason why your sex life may have fallen off the boil is discomfort before, during or after intercourse. And there’s nothing less sexy than feeling sick after sex, though it’s certainly not uncommon.

GP and women’s intimate health expert Dr Shirin Lakhani says: “Many women do feel sick after sex, but it’s important to try and find out what is causing this, in case there's an underlying issue. Don't hesitate to discuss it with your doctor, especially if it becomes a frequent problem." Fortunately, some of the possible causes of post-coital queasiness are easy to treat, whether by tweaking your sexual technique or just popping a painkiller. 

Dr Shirin Lakhani headshot
Dr Shirin Lakhani

Dr Shirin Lakhani MBBS MRCGP DRCOG is a GP, aesthetic physician and an award-winning cosmetic doctor with specialist expertise in intimate health for both men and women. She appears regularly on television and in the press as well as speaking at medical conferences worldwide. With a Diplomate of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Dr Lakhani consults on every aspect of intimate health, including dermatological issues, aesthetic rejuvenation and sexual performance enhancement for both men and women.

Why do I feel sick after sex?

1. Endometriosis, cysts or fibroids

If nausea after sex is accompanied by pain, it could be an indication of endometriosis. Similarly, if experienced alongside other pelvic symptoms, it could be caused by an ovarian cyst or fibroid.

“Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places. It can mean intercourse is painful and it’s important to visit the doctor if you suspect you may have it,” says Dr Lakhani. According to the Royal College of Nursing, endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition (after fibroids) and it affects one in 10 women. Unfortunately, it takes an average of seven years for most women to get diagnosed, as symptoms including painful bowel movements overlap with IBS.

Former GP and founder of Cambridge Women’s Health, Dr Susanna Unsworth adds: "Deep pain during sex can also be a feature of other pelvic conditions such as fibroids or cysts. Changes in bleeding patterns or very heavy, painful periods may also accompany this." Fibroids are non-cancerous tumours that develop on the uterus, whereas cysts are fluid-filled pouches usually in or attached to the ovaries.

All three of these conditions can impact fertility. However, regardless of whether you are trying for a baby, if you do have other pelvic symptoms alongside feeling nauseous after sex, it’s important you speak to your doctor.

2. Orgasm

If you are feeling sick immediately after orgasm, this may be the cause of your nausea.

"Some people feel sick after orgasm because the body releases hormones that make us feel relaxed, which can lead to nausea,” says Dr Lakhani. It could also be due to the effects of the contractions that can occur in the womb after an orgasm. “Finally, adrenaline is released during arousal, which could contribute to lightheadedness,” says Dr Lakhani.

“For most women, this will not be a severe problem and will settle quickly, however, if you are finding it is causing significant discomfort, you could try taking some pain relief prior to having sex – ibuprofen is a good option for this,” says Dr Unsworth, who is also the in-house gynaecologist for intimate wellbeing brand INTIMINA.

3. Certain sex positions

Vigorous sex or positions that allow for deeper penetration can trigger nausea after sex. 

“Deep penetration that impacts on the pelvic organs, particularly the cervix, can trigger a drop in blood pressure and heart rate,” explains women's health specialist Dr Unsworth. “This is known as a vasovagal reaction – caused by stimulation of the vagus nerve which supplies many organs in the body, including the cervix.” 

It’s possible you may also have experienced this outside of the bedroom. For example, if a smear test or having an IUD fitted made you feel light-headed, sweaty, or dizzy.

“A vasovagal reaction caused by sex is usually more mild,” says Dr Unsworth. “Drinking water, lying down, and trying to elevate your legs can often help relieve it.” To avoid it happening in the first place, you could alter how you are having sex. “Try to have sex in positions where you can control how deeply you are penetrated,” says Dr Lakhani.

Intercourse itself may also cause nausea if you are moving around a lot, or moving at speed. “If you are rocking back and forth and start feeling sick you may be suffering from motion sickness,” says Dr Unsworth. Consider slowing the pace or choosing different positions and techniques if this is the case – your symptoms may well improve.

4. Alcohol and/or drugs

If you have been drinking alcohol or have taken drugs, this may well be why you’re feeling sick after sex.

“Drink and drugs both have a tendency to make you feel sick anyway,” says Dr Lakhani. 

Of course, it is possible that you are feeling sick because of a combination of drink or drugs and another of the causes listed here. To check that this isn’t the case, don’t drink too much or take drugs before having sex and see if your symptoms go away. If you feel better, cut back on what you are consuming until your symptoms stop impacting on your enjoyment. If you don't, you'll need to investigate your symptoms further with the help of a medical professional.

5. Dehydration

Dehydration can cause nausea, so it’s likely a common cause of feeling sick after sex.

“People often feel nausea even if you are only slightly dehydrated,” says Dr Lakhani. “Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day.” This means drinking 6-8 glasses of water per day, according to the Eatwell Guide. Of course on hot days or if you have been exercising, this requirement increases. The good news is that nausea-free sex aside, there are many other benefits of drinking water, such as better brain and gut function, and improved mood.

6. A urinary tract infection (UTI)

If you experience nausea after sex alongside pain when passing urine, fever or even blood in your urine, you may have a UTI.

“UTIs can make you feel systemically unwell, with nausea being a possible symptom,” says Dr Unsworth. “If this occurs alongside any of the symptoms listed above, visit your GP as you may need treatment to clear the infection.” 

7. Anxiety

If there are no obvious physical reasons for feeling nauseous after sex, you may be struggling with anxiety.

“Nausea can often be a symptom of anxiety. I am sure we will all have experienced ‘butterflies’ in our stomachs at some time in our lives,” says Dr Unsworth. "This is one of the body’s responses to stressful/anxious situations, as our gastrointestinal system is full of nerve endings, making it very sensitive to these emotions. If you are feeling anxious about sex, this could trigger feelings of nausea, either before or after.”

“Perhaps you are feeling uncomfortable having sex with a partner,” says Dr Lakhani. “Sexual aversion is a mental health condition where a person experiences anxiety and fear related to sex." A Canadian study found that the prevalence of sexual aversion symptoms was 7% for cisgender men, 11% for cisgender women, and 17% for transgender or nonbinary individuals.

"Ultimately, if sex doesn’t feel good, it is important to speak to a mental health professional,” says Dr Lakhani. Addressing the underlying reasons for your anxiety is the best way to treat any unpleasant physical symptoms you are experiencing. 

Does feeling nauseous after sex mean you are pregnant?

No, feeling sick after intercourse does not mean you have conceived. 

“Pregnancy-related nausea is often related to the production of the hormone beta HCG (the ‘pregnancy’ hormone picked up in a pregnancy test),” says Dr Unsworth. “This takes a while to reach a level that can cause nausea (it can actually take up to 3 weeks to reach the small level detectable on a pregnancy test).”

“Obviously pregnancy can cause nausea, and if you are already pregnant there is the chance this may occur after sex too, but I would not link the two as a sign of conceiving,” concludes Dr Unsworth. 

Should I be worried if I feel sick after sex?

Not necessarily. It depends on how many times this has happened, how severe the nausea is, and if other symptoms are present. 

“If it’s a one-off, then you don’t need to worry,” says Dr Lakhani, “but if it impacts on your enjoyment of sex regularly and you don’t know why you are feeling nauseous, it’s time to seek help to identify why.”

Once you find out what might be at fault, you can treat it. In some cases, this may be simple. For example, avoiding triggers such as alcohol or drugs, or adjusting your position during sex. In other cases, you will need further help, tests and/or advice from a medical professional.

Looking for more like this? Check out our advice on how to spice up your relationship with 25 tips from relationship experts or perhaps you're at the stage where what you really need is a list of the early signs of pregnancy.

Video of the week

Dr Susanna Unsworth headshot
Dr Susanna Unsworth

Dr Susanna Unsworth is a menopause and women’s health specialist. She trained as an undergraduate at Pembroke College in Cambridge and completed her clinical medical qualification at the University of Cambridge, School of Clinical Medicine, graduating in 2005. As a junior doctor, she worked in hospitals throughout the Eastern region, before commencing further training in General Practice. In 2010, she achieved Membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners (MRCGP) and subsequently worked as a GP in practices in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. She now works as a Specialty Doctor in the Breast Clinic at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge and is the in-house gynaecologist and women’s health expert for intimate wellbeing brand INTIMINA.

Jenny Rowe
Senior Health Writer

Jenny Rowe joined Future in January 2022 as Senior Health Writer on Woman&Home, Woman and Woman’s Own magazines. She graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Literature in 2016. Since then she has worked within the editorial teams at Country & Town House and The Chelsea Magazine Company, alongside writing for The Independent, Breathe and Planet Mindful. She’s a keen cross-country runner and triathlete with a love of the great outdoors and a passion for the world of women's wellness.