For many people, the orgasm process is pleasurable but fairly predictable: There’s the buildup, those toe-curling contractions, followed by a feeling of well-being and relaxation. But occasionally, some unexpected stuff can occur, like sudden headaches, sneezing or crying. (The causes of some of these phenomena are still a bit of a mystery because there isn’t a ton of data on orgasms. And the data researchers do have is based on small sample sizes.)
Below are just a few of the surprising things that can happen when you have an orgasm. Some are rare, and others are more common, but all are a reminder that our bodies are curious things.
1. You might get a headache
A burst of pleasure and then — ugh — the pain of a splitting headache. Post-orgasm headaches are more common in men and among people who suffer from migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic. Most of these headaches last just a few minutes, but they can persist as long as a few hours or even a couple of days.
“While some people report a dull ache that increases as they get aroused, most people [who experience this] report a severe and sudden headache just before or during orgasm,” Laurie Mintz, the author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters—And How to Get It, told HuffPost.
It’s not totally understood why these headaches happen, though some experts believe it has to do with a spike in adrenaline coursing through the body during sex.
Most sex headaches are nothing to worry about, but in some cases, they could point to an underlying issue ― especially if you’re also experiencing symptoms such as vomiting and neck stiffness. So it’s best to check with a doctor to rule out something more serious.
2. You might cry
You’re basking in that post-orgasm glow, and then suddenly tears are streaming down your face. What gives? Experts aren’t quite sure why this happens but say it’s not surprising, given all the psychological and physiological changes that happen during sex. And you can rest assured knowing that it’s fairly common.
“This is known as postcoital dysphoria,” sex therapist Vanessa Marin told HuffPost. “A fair number of people report feeling sad, overwhelmed, tearful or emotional after an orgasm.”
Those who get teary after sex might be concerned it’s a sign of an underlying issue in the relationship with their partner, but that’s not necessarily true.
“This occurs most often in the context of close and loving relationships and is actually related to happy emotions,” Mintz said. “Still, if it happens to you and you suspect another reason ― like you aren’t actually happy in your relationship ― it’s a good idea to sort this out with a confidant or a therapist.”
Some survivors of sexual trauma may experience postcoital dysphoria, even after good sex.
“It’s also worth it to speak to a therapist if you often find yourself having feelings of shame, guilt or sadness following sex,” psychologist and sex therapist Rachel Needle told Bustle. “[A therapist] can work towards understanding these feelings and where they are coming from.”
3. You might feel totally euphoric
It’s no secret: Orgasms generally feel pretty great. But for certain people, the positive post-sex feelings are particularly heightened.
“For some people, the euphoric feelings seem extra-intense,” Marin said. “Their mood is greatly improved, they feel more positive, and their self-esteem is elevated. Again, we don’t quite know why orgasms can trigger such different reactions in different people.”
4. You might sneeze.
Ah-ah-ah … choo? Researchers aren’t quite sure why sneezing and having an orgasm are linked for some people, but they speculate it might have to do with crossed wires in the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for reflexes such as sneezing, as well as sexual arousal.
5. You might have shaky legs
Some women report leg shaking after they have an orgasm. During climax, tension builds around our muscles, and not just those in the genital area. When sex is over and the tension is released, some cramping, shaking or contractions can occur. If this happens to you, try drinking water and eating something with potassium, like a banana, avocado or yogurt.
“Know what your normal is, and if your legs do shake, be sure to hydrate,” OB/GYN Jessica Williams told ShareCare.com. “And have fun!”
6. You might feel as if you’re coming down with the flu
Post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) is a rare condition in which men experience flu-like symptoms such as a fever, fatigue and nasal congestion after ejaculation.
A research review from Tulane University noted that POIS “negatively affects the life of patients by limiting sexual encounters, dampening romantic prospects, creating internal struggles to avoid eroticism, and affecting patients’ schedules.”
The International Society of Sexual Medicine recommends visiting a doctor if you experience flu-like symptoms after an orgasm.