9 Sicknesses Triggered by Sex
But can you imagine having to turn down your partner’s advances because having sex would actually make you sick — trigger a piercing headache, flu-like symptoms, or even amnesia? From postcoital depression to postorgasmic illness syndrome, here’s a look at some common (and some unusual) sexual sicknesses.
1. Postorgasmic Illness Syndrome: When the ‘Big O’ Makes You Sick Have you ever experienced flu-like symptoms like fever, foggy head, painful muscles or joints, fatigue, or problems concentrating right after having sex? You could have postorgasmic illness syndrome (POIS), a condition first identified in 2002 that tends to affect men shortly after ejaculation (it also, rarely, may occur in females).
According to a study, there are indications that POIS is triggered in a man by an autoimmune reaction to his own seminal fluid (in women, it’s associated with tissue around the vagina). If you think POIS could be putting a damper on your sex life, it’s time to talk to a urologist or gynecologist.
2. Exertional Headaches and Orgasmic Headaches It’s a clichéd excuse when you want to avoid intercourse (“not tonight, dear I’ve got a headache&rdquo
, but for some people, sex actually triggers head pain. According to the National Headache Foundation (NHF), two types of headaches are associated with sexual activity, especially with orgasm.
In the first type, sexual excitement causes muscle contraction in the head and neck, leading to head pain. Headaches associated with strenuous physical activity, like weight lifting or sexual intercourse, are also known as exertional headaches, according to the NHF. Most exertional headaches are benign, and they are most commonly associated with patients who are prone to migraines, but in some cases they can be a sign of abnormalities in the brain or other diseases. If you think you’ve experienced an exertional headache, see your doctor.
The second type of sex-induced headache has been dubbed an “orgasmic headache.” An orgasmic headache is a very intense, severe vascular headache usually occurring just before orgasm, according to the NHF. The headache can be a response to an increase in blood pressure, and it usually lasts a few minutes (but can last for hours). It occurs more frequently in men than in women and usually strikes those prone to migraines.
3. Postcoital Dysphoria: When Sex Makes You Feel Sad Feeling glum about a not-so-great sexual encounter is one thing — but in a survey study, one-third of women said they’ve felt depressed even after a perfectly pleasing lovemaking session. Researchers call it postcoital dysphoria, and it affects about 10 percent of women regularly.
Postsex depression is marked by feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, or agitation. If you’re regularly sad in the sack, you might want to explore the reasons for your feelings with a therapist, says the obstetrician-gynecologist Paula Bednarek, MD, MPH, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. These emotions could also be related to feeling unequal in your partnership or other relationship issues.
4. Semen Allergies: When You’re Allergic to Sex Can you be physically allergic to sex? Up to 40,000 women in the United States are believed to have a semen allergy, according to one study. Although this sexual sensitivity is rare, Dr. Bednarek says that semen changes the pH balance in the vagina for some women, resulting in irritation, cervical mucus, hives, and swelling. Your best bet for reducing the symptoms of semen allergy is to use a condom, says Bednarek.
5. TGA: Sex That Actually Blows Your Mind Have you ever had sex that’s so toe-curlingly fabulous, you can’t think straight? For one woman in Washington, DC, sex with her husband zapped her memory … literally.
Her memories began to disappear about an hour after intercourse, and doctors diagnosed her with transient global amnesia (TGA) — a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss that affects between 23 and 32 people 50 and older out of 100,000 each year in the United States, according to one article.
When the incident was reported, doctors were a little stumped. That’s because researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes TGA. One study found that patients with TGA tend to have insufficiency of the valves in the jugular vein, which carries deoxygenated blood from the brain to the heart.
Sex isn’t the only trigger — transient global amnesia may also be caused by other physically strenuous activities or high-stress events. Fortunately, people who experience this curious condition usually get their memory back within a few hours, and it’s unlikely to happen again.
6. ‘Honeymoon Disease’: When Sex Causes a UTI If you’ve ever had a urinary tract infection, you know the symptoms well. There’s the pain when you urinate, the need to go often, and the maddening feeling that you can’t completely empty your bladder.
And some unfortunate females seem to be extra susceptible to getting UTIs, says Bednarek (adult women are 30 times more likely than men to get the infection, found a study).
One thing that increases their risk? There’s a reason why UTIs have been nicknamed “honeymoon disease.” Sexual activity introduces bacteria into a woman’s urinary tract. If you’re plagued with UTIs, try urinating right after sex — this can flush any unwanted bacteria out of your urethra.
7. Yeast Infections: The Itch You Can’t Scratch in Public Our bodies naturally contain a certain amount of yeast — but if those levels get out of control, you could end up with one big, itchy problem: a yeast infection. “Women’s yeast infections may be triggered by a change in pH from semen or a new lubricant,” Bednarek says. “Hormonal changes also can make women prone to yeast infections.”
A yeast infection isn’t an STD, but it is characterized by some of the same symptoms: itch and irritation, painful sex, and a thick discharge. You can treat it with over-the-counter medications, but if that doesn’t work, check in with your doctor.
8. Bacterial Vaginosis: A Common Conundrum Your vagina is chock-full of bacteria — some of it is good bacteria (which helps control the bad kind), and some of it is bad. But if the balance of good and bad bacteria gets upset, you could end up with a common vaginal infection known as bacterial vaginosis.
Symptoms of bacterial vaginosis include cervical mucus that may be white or gray in color; cervical mucus with a strong, foul odor; vaginal odor that is particularly strong, with a fishy smell after sex; vaginal itching; and painful or burning urination. It’s not a sexually transmitted disease per se — but it can be caused by sex, and women with multiple partners or a new partner are at higher risk.
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Reduce your risk by being in a monogamous relationship, using condoms, avoiding douching, practicing good hygiene, and wearing cotton underwear and pants that fit loosely in the crotch. Untreated bacterial vaginosis can lead to other complications and health risks, so if you think you have it, see your ob-gyn right away; he or she may suggest a prescription medication.
9. Catching a Cold Between the Sheets Should you still have sex when your honey has a cold? “If you’re close enough to have sex, you’re close enough to be coughed on,” says Bednarek. Sleep with your sneezing, coughing, ailing sweetheart, and you may notice your own set of symptoms (like cough, fever, runny nose, muscle aches, and sore throat) in about a week. Want to stay healthy? Take a rain check!