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Orgasm Headaches

Sex is so much more than just the “big O”. The whole experience—foreplay, making love, and afterglow—has the potential to be uniquely pleasurable. Of course, orgasms are amazing, but for some of us the build-up of intense arousal can also bring on an intense headache.

Sex and headaches are an infamous pair. Dusty jokes and TV sitcoms often feature that old chestnut: “Not tonight dear, I have a headache,” while from other quarters we hear that the endorphins released during orgasm can help relieve headache pain (and menstrual cramps). But did you know that orgasms—and sex in general—can bring on intense headaches with migraine-like effects in some people? This is more common for men than women.

The orgasm headache—also known as sexual headache, intercourse headache, coital cephalalgia, or the post-coital thunderclap—is a well-documented phenomenon. This type of headache builds during sex, reaching full strength with orgasm or just after, often hitting sufferers with a sudden blast of pain. Sexual headaches can range from mild to severe and last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.


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Are sex headaches dangerous? Generally, no. There is no need to start panicking if this happens to you, especially if headaches or migraines are not unusual in your experience. On rare occasions, however, sexual headaches can indicate an immediate health risk that should be addressed.

There are two types of sex headaches: primary and secondary. If you are experiencing a physiological reaction to sexual excitement that is not associated with any medical condition (other than, perhaps, being prone to headaches), it is a primary sex headache. While annoying and uncomfortable, and sometimes accompanied by migraine-like symptoms, such headaches are typically benign and don’t lead to other problems.

A headache that is a symptom of another more serious problem, such as an aneurysm or bleeding in the brain, is considered a secondary sex headache—an indicator that something else is wrong. If you don’t normally have headaches or migraines and suddenly find that your head is pounding during sex, go see your doctor ASAP to rule out a more serious problem.


If you have an orgasm headache accompanied by nausea and vomiting, double vision, weakness or tingling in the extremities, loss of consciousness, or other unusual symptoms, seek medical help immediately!

Why do I get a headache after orgasm?

There is no one simple explanation for orgasm headaches that can be applied to everyone who experiences them, but they are often associated with the physical exertion of orgasm, which increases blood pressure and dilates the blood vessels in the brain.

Alternatively, it may be that arousal causes the muscles of the head and neck to contract, triggering a tension headache. People who experience benign orgasm headaches report that they typically start with dull ache in the head or neck that becomes more intense as sexual excitement increases.

The triggering mechanisms may have to do with blood vessel size or other factors involved in how your body reacts to sexual stimulation.

Risk factors for primary orgasm headaches include:

  • being prone to migraines
  • being male
  • poor cardiovascular health
  • history of substance abuse

The physical demands of sex are no joke. Men typically have higher blood pressure than women and develop heart disease earlier in life. For those who are prone to cardiovascular disease, sex can—on very rare occasions—become dangerous.

About 1% of people will experience orgasm headaches in their lifetime compared to 10% of people who get migraines. More women than men suffer from migraines, but men are around three times more likely to have orgasm headaches. Unfortunately, although the trigger mechanisms and the pain itself is different, people who regularly suffer from migraines are also more likely to experience orgasm headaches.

The vast majority of sexual headaches are primary and benign. Secondary orgasm headaches—the ones that potentially indicate a life-threatening problem such as stroke, tumour, aneurysm, or brain haemorrhage—are usually accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, partial paralysis, double vision, and other noticeable changes. If you are experiencing sex headaches, get checked out but don’t lose yourself to worry.

How long does a sex headache last?

Once it starts, a sex headache can last anywhere from a few minutes up to several hours after sex.

What some researchers call pre-orgasmic headaches, start earlier and increase along with sexual excitement, while orgasmic headaches come as a sudden explosion of pain just before or at the moment of orgasm, like “being hit in the head with a baseball bat”. Luckily, the intense pain usually subsides quickly and if the pain does linger, it tends to be more of a dull throb.

The bad news is that for up to 40% of people sex headaches cluster, recurring with sexual activity for weeks or even months. If this happens to you, go see your doctor for suggestions on how to get some relief.


Does masturbation cause headaches? What about sexual frustration?

We humans can become sexually aroused even without a partner present and the same principles apply to orgasm headaches even when you’re flying solo. Although consensual sex with a partner brings new pheromones and extra excitement to the mix, an orgasm experienced while masturbating activates the same responses in your body, including a headache.

Sex headaches often begin before you reach orgasm. They are directly linked with sexual excitement, and therefore also not uncommonly with frustration. Nevertheless, sexual frustration in and of itself will not bring on a headache. It’s more likely that sexual frustration is simply another trigger for the pain, just like eye strain or bad posture contribute to severe tension headaches and migraines.

How to get rid of a sex headache?

Treatment for sex headaches will depend on your overall health, potential underlying health risks, and lifestyle factors. Over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen generally work well for treating headaches, including orgasm headaches. If you know that you’re prone to this problem, it might be a good idea to take a painkiller before sex.

On the other hand, if testing shows that blood pressure is the main culprit, your doctor can prescribe an appropriate blood pressure medication or a beta-blocker.

Lifestyle changes such as ensuring sufficient water intake, regularly engaging in moderate physical activity, and having a stress relief practice that works for you will also reduce your risk of headaches, especially tension headaches.

Likewise, consider the environment where you are going to have sex: Is it spacious and well ventilated? Reduce potential headache triggers such as allergens, perfumes, and household chemicals, and consider avoiding positions where your neck is bent or your body is strained or contorted, especially if you experience cluster headaches that repeat. If physical strain brings on the headaches, a calmer, gentler—yet no less sexy—approach might be the way to go?

Headache after orgasm during pregnancy

The body goes through so many changes during pregnancy. Changes in blood pressure, lack of sleep, caffeine withdrawal, and low blood sugar are just a few of the factors that could cause orgasm headaches to emerge during pregnancy. Remember, this is not a given; some migraine sufferers report having fewer headaches when pregnant.

Powerful headaches in the third trimester could be related to physical tension from all the extra weight you’re carrying but might also be an early sign of preeclampsia. It’s always a good idea to listen to your body, especially when you are expecting. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional advice if something seems off.

Emotional and psychological aspects of orgasm headaches

As with most things related to sex and sexuality, experiencing sex headaches can be a sensitive issue that can add stress to an otherwise enjoyable, deeply intimate activity. You may find yourself asking: Should I even tell my partner about my sex headaches?

The answer is yes, talk about it. A supportive partner will want to know. It may be enough to take a painkiller or a beta blocker to stop the headaches from putting a damper on your sex life, but maybe your partner can help in exploring positions that get you hot but don’t make your head explode. Open communication enhances consensual sex between enthusiastic adults.

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https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/orgasmic-pre-orgasmic-headache/
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