Editor’s note: We at POPSUGAR recognize that not everyone who has a vagina is a woman. For this particular story, the expert we interviewed referred to people with vaginas as women.
Have you ever had amazing sex with your partner only to experience discomfort and bloating in your stomach afterward? You’re not alone. It may seem strange to bloat after sexual intercourse — of all things! — and likely even a bit awkward to experience it when all you want to do is lie there enjoying that postorgasmic bliss. But bloating after sex is actually more common than you might think, and there are things that can help.
Before you can figure out how to alleviate your postsex bloating, it’s important to understand why it’s happening — and there are a few things that could be behind it, including (shocker) your period, a bacterial imbalance, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or even a retroverted uterus. There likely won’t be a quick fix to ease your symptoms, but understanding more about your anatomy can help you get down to the bottom of your postsex bloating and give you and your doctor a starting point for addressing it.
Everyone’s body and bloating tendencies are different, but POPSUGAR spoke to two ob-gyns to find out some of the common causes of postsex bloating and how you can manage it, so you can get back to fully basking in that afterglow.
You Have a Retroverted Uterus
If you have a retroverted uterus (the uterus is tilted backward), sex can cause your uterus to move and make contact with other organs surrounding it. As a result, you may have pain and bloating. “Signs of a retroverted uterus are pain during sex and painful menstruation, but often it has no symptoms,” women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD, tells POPSUGAR. In order to find out if you have a retroverted uterus, you’ll have to visit a doctor and get a routine pelvic exam.
You Have a Bacterial Imbalance
Another potential cause of bloating after sex is an imbalance or overgrowth of the natural bacteria in your vagina, says ob-gyn and author Anna Cabeca, DO, FACOG. This could cause issues like yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. These types of irritating infections are often triggered by semen in the vagina or lubricants with artificial ingredients or sweeteners. Douching can also negatively affect your vaginal bacteria, according to Dr. Cabeca.
To address these issues, Dr. Cabeca recommends incorporating probiotics (aka fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha) into your diet to keep your vaginal bacteria healthy and balanced. You may also want to avoid getting semen in your vagina (more on that below) and steer clear of personal lubricants that use artificial ingredients, such as glycerin, parabens, and any kinds of flavors or fragrances.
Your Menstrual Cycle
Hormones can cause a lot of changes within our bodies, and if you get a period, it may be why you’re bloated after sex. “Oftentimes, women will experience bloating before and/or during menstruation, so if they have intercourse around that time of the month, it is likely to play a role,” Dr. Wider explains.
You Have Digestive Issues
A more serious issue that can cause bloating involves the gut. If you have a history of digestive issues — such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or indigestion — Dr. Wider says that you may be prone to bloating after sexual intercourse. Symptoms of IBS to look out for include constipation, cramping, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
To help ease and manage any bloating, including after sex, Dr. Wider recommends avoiding foods that tend to make people gassy, like beans and legumes, before sexual intercourse. If you still have bloating, Dr. Wider also recommends consuming ginger, as studies have shown it can reduce gastrointestinal pain and bloating.
You’re Having Unprotected Sex
Having unprotected sex with someone who has a penis is another possibility as to why you’re having cramps and stomach pain after sex. According to Dr. Wider, if semen enters your vagina, the prostaglandin (a type of lipid) found in semen can cause uterine contractions and discomfort, which may include bloating. You can avoid this by using a condom during sex or by having your partner pull out before ejaculating.
You’re Using a Condom and Have a Latex Allergy
Unfortunately, sex with a condom can also cause bloating for some people, Dr. Cabeca says, as latex allergies can cause inflammation and bloating. According to Mayo Clinic, other symptoms of a latex allergy may include itching, skin redness, hives or rash, and cold-like symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, coughing, or a scratchy throat. If you think you might have a latex allergy, speak to a doctor about getting diagnosed and treated.
Like we said earlier, there isn’t a quick cure for any bloating you may experience after sex. If your bloating does not dissipate after a few hours, or if you experience it consistently, Dr. Wider recommends consulting a healthcare provider.
— Additional reporting by Maggie Ryan