Anyone who’s enjoyed a post-O glow will know the upsides of having an orgasm. Research has found they can relieve stress, alleviate pain and boost our moods. There are downsides too, of course – the exhaustion, the mess, the foot pain. Wait, what?
If you’re baffled by that last one, it turns out that’s just one of the strange side effects, people have reported after climaxing.
According to a study published in Sexual Medicine Reviews on peri-orgasmic phenomena (AKA weird physical or psychological symptoms “distinct from the usual orgasm response”), the big O can be a bit of a bummer in some cases.
Here’s some of the post-orgasm responses that have been identified.
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Yep, really. Post-Orgasmic Illness Syndrome (or POIS) is a “rare condition in which a person develops flu-like and allergy symptoms after orgasm, whether with a partner, through masturbation, or spontaneously during sleep,” according to Rare Diseases. It’s typically reported in men after ejaculation, but “females have rarely been reported to have symptoms of POIS, too” they say. “Symptoms may develop within seconds, minutes, or hours after orgasm, and usually last for 2 to 7 days before going away on their own,” they add. These include fatigue, weakness, headaches, fever, sore throats and stuffy noses. Researchsuggests it’s triggered by an auto-immune reaction to semen in men and, more rarely, is associated with female prostatic tissue around the vagina in women.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “sex headaches are brought on by sexual activity — especially an orgasm. You may notice a dull ache in your head and neck that builds up as sexual excitement increases. Or, more commonly, you may experience a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm.” While most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about “some can be a sign of something serious, such as problems with the blood vessels that feed your brain,” they say. “Many people who have sex headaches will experience them in clusters over a few months, and then they go for a year or more without having any sex headaches. Some people may only have one attack during their lives.”
An article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that sneezing in response to an orgasm “may be much more common than expected,” but acknowledged it was likely under-reported due to embarrassment. The study identified the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls bodily functions when someone is at rest) as the most probable mechanism to explain this and other reported unusual triggers of sneezing.
A case report on Foot Orgasm Syndrome explored the case of a woman who “presented with complaints of undesired orgasmic sensations originating in her left foot,” sometime spontaneously and other times during sexual arousal. Sound odd? It is. The unusual occurrence was eventually linked to partial nerve damage during previous surgery.
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Heightened emotions are a common side-effect of orgasming and laughing uncontrollably, or simply laughing happily is one such response. Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of Everything You Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong told Women’s Health: “an orgasm instigates the release of powerful hormones, such as dopamine, epinephrine, and oxytocin, all of which rile the emotions.” Makes sense.
It follows, with our emotions all over the place, that crying is another common side effect to climaxing. Post-Coital Dysphoria (or sadness after sex) is actually super common. A study conducted with female university students found that 46% of respondents reported experiencing PCD symptoms at least once in their lifetime. However, the research found that there was no link between PCD and the amount of intimacy in close relationships. So if you find yourself bawling after bonking, its likely your emotions running high, rather than a reflection of your relationship.
A Turkish study from 2011 found that of nearly 50 women who admitted to an “expanded sexual response” 75% noted a feeling of leaving their bodies and 76% experienced a flying sensation, which is why the right orgasm can literally be out of this world.
For more from GLAMOUR’s Deputy Beauty Editor, Elle Turner follow her on Instagram @elleturneruk.