Headaches during sex

Dr Mark Porter / 23 December 2016

Dr Porter advises a reader who suffers headaches during lovemaking.

Q: For the last 20 years or so I have suffered headaches when I make love. It doesn’t happen every time but it’s frequent enough to put me off. Why am I getting them?

A: Contrary to pub lore sex related headaches are more common in men than women. As many as in 1 in 30 men regularly develop intense headaches prior to, or during, orgasm, as opposed to 1 in 100 women. They usually only last a few minutes, but can go on for hours and are thought to be due to a combination of excitement, muscular contraction and an increase in blood pressure.

The problem – benign coital cephalgia - is more common in migraine sufferers and taking migraine medication an hour or two before making love often helps. Others can get similar relief from taking a couple of ibuprofen at least an hour before sex.

One word of caution, while most sex-related headaches are not associated with underlying disease, they can sometimes be a sign of rare intracranial problems ranging from a bleed to a tumour. So where it is a new problem, or associated with other symptoms such as double vision, pins and needles or weakness, it warrants further attention. But this is most unlikely to apply in your case given how long you have had them.

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