“I’ve got a headache” may be the cliché excuse associated with telling your partner you’re not in the mood, but for some, sex can actually cause a sore head.
If you start to feel your head pounding during or after sex, you could be suffering from “sex headaches”.
According to Dr Margaret Redelman, a sexologist writing in the British Journal of Medical Practitioners, sex headaches have been given multiple names throughout medical history, such as HSA (headaches associated with sexual activity), BSH (benign sex headache), benign coital headache and orgasmic cephalgia.
It’s thought that sex headaches are not common “but it is generally felt that they are under-reported due to patient embarrassment”.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about them.
According to Dr Clare Morrison, the GP for online doctor MedExpress, it’s not exactly clear why some people get sex headaches.
“One theory why people experience headaches during sex is the fact that sex is similar to physical exercise, which can cause the blood vessels to dilate and lead to a headache,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Sexual headaches can last any period from one minute to 24 hours with very strong intensity, or even three days with mild intensity.”
Dr Morrison adds that sex headaches appear to occur more in males than females, and among reported cases there are two peak ages: early twenties and again at 40.
“It’s said that there’s a bigger chance of suffering from a sex headache if you are tired, stressed or if you have sex several times in rapid succession,” she says.
“Other risk factors include obesity, sex positions and the level of sexual excitement.”
Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert at Lovehoney, confirms that particularly energetic sex has been linked to headaches.
“You can lessen the risk by adopting sex positions which are less physically exerting,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Obviously missionary is one of the least physically exhausting positions, but there are other more imaginative positions such as ‘scissors’, where you lie facing each other and the woman puts her top leg over his hips.
“He thrusts while grabbing the woman’s buttocks. It is a nice intimate position and requires minimal exertion from both partners.”
Alternatively, Dr Morrison says your GP may be able to prescribe medication to ease your experience of headaches during or after sex.
“Beta blockers could prevent them coming on, or triptans - typically used to treat migraines - could assist,” she says.
Most importantly, Dr Morrison says you shouldn’t be embarrassed about speaking to your doctor if you think you’re suffering from sex headaches.
“Although sex headaches are usually benign, they could be an indicator of a more serious issue, such as weak blood vessels or stroke,” she says.
“So it’s important to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible to discover the exact cause.”