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 have discomfort and bloating in your stomach afterwards? You’re not alone. It may seem strange to bloat after sexual intercourse — of all things! — but it’s not as uncommon as you might think.
Before you can figure out how to alleviate your post-sex bloating, it’s important to understand why it’s happening — and there are a few things that could be behind it, from your period to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There likely won’t be a quick fix to ease your symptoms, but understanding more about your anatomy may help you get down to the bottom of your post-sex bloating and give you and your doctor a starting point for addressing it.
A Retroverted Uterus Can Cause Bloating
If you have a retroverted uterus (the uterus is tilted backwards), 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, told 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 administered.
Bacterial Imbalance Might Cause Bloating
Another potential cause of bloating after sex is an imbalance or overgrowth of the natural bacteria in your vagina, said ob-gyn and author Anna Cabeca, DO, FACOG, which 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, Dr. Cabeca said.
To address these issues, Dr. Cabeca recommended incorporating probiotics (aka fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha) in 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 lubricants that use artificial ingredients.
Your Menstrual Cycle Can Cause Bloating
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 explained.
You Have Digestive Issues
A more serious issue that can be the culprit behind bloating involves the gut. If you have a history of digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, and indigestion, Dr. Wider said that you may be prone to bloating after sexual intercourse. Other symptoms of IBS to look out for: constipation, cramping, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
To help ease and manage any bloating, Dr. Wider recommended avoiding foods that tend to make people more gassy, like beans and legumes, before sexual intercourse. If you still have bloating, Dr. Wider also recommended consuming ginger, which has been shown to reduce abdominal 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 cramping 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 contraction and discomfort. You can avoid this by using a condom during sex, or by having your partner pull out before ejaculating. (If you’re using a condom, Dr. Cabeca noted that latex allergies can also cause inflammation and bloating.)
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.