An orgasm headache is a sudden, intense headache before or during an orgasm. It is also called a primary headache associated with sexual activity. The exact cause is unclear, but some medications may help.

If a person regularly experiences headaches during sex. It is best to contact a doctor for advice. Headaches can sometimes signal an underlying condition.

Read on to learn more about what orgasm headaches feel like, when they can occur, and possible risk factors. This article also discusses treatment options, when to contact a doctor, and more.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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An orgasm headache is a primary headache. A primary headache is a condition itself, not a symptom of another health issue.

A person may experience an orgasm headache just before or during sexual climax. These headaches can happen during masturbation or partnered sex.

Orgasm headaches are one of two types of primary sex headaches. The other type is a sexual benign headache, which doctors also call a pre-orgasm headache.

Learn more about the relationship between sex and headaches.

People typically experience orgasm headaches just before or during an orgasm.

The pain may feel:

  • intense
  • explosive
  • throbbing

An orgasm headache may be painful behind or around the eye area.

The condition can often cause pain on both sides of the head. Moving around may make the pain worse.

The pain can occur abruptly, and after it diminishes a person may feel a throbbing in their head, which can sometimes last for several hours or even days.

Unlike migraine headaches, orgasm headaches do not usually occur with nausea or sensitivity to light or sound.

Doctors do not know what causes orgasm headaches, but they may be a type of vascular headache. These result from blood vessels swelling in the brain.

When a person has an orgasm, their blood pressure increases rapidly. This surge in pressure causes blood vessels in the head to dilate quickly, which can trigger sudden, intense headaches in some people.

Anyone can experience orgasm headaches. However, males are up to four times more likely to experience primary headaches associated with sexual activity than females.

The mean age of onset is 39.2 years, though they can begin earlier or later.

People with a history of migraine headaches, exertional headaches, or cough headaches may be more likely to get orgasm headaches.

According to the International Headache Society, studies indicate that up to 40% of people with primary headaches associated with sexual activity experience them for over a year.

If a person experiences orgasm headaches, it is best to contact a doctor to discuss how best to manage them.

Treatment options for orgasm headaches can include prescription medications such as triptans. Taking triptans before sexual intercourse may prevent orgasm headaches in up to 50% of cases.

A doctor may also recommend topiramate and beta-blockers such as propranolol.

If a person does not respond well to beta-blockers, a doctor may recommend indomethacin, which is a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Some calcium channel blockers may also be beneficial. These include:

  • verapamil
  • flunarizine
  • nimodipine

Headaches during sex can sometimes result from another condition. In this case, they are secondary headaches. Treating the underlying issue can help reduce or prevent these headaches.

People who regularly experience headaches during sex should contact a doctor. The doctor can help determine if they are primary or secondary headaches.

Orgasm headaches are primary headaches. A secondary headache occurs as a result of an underlying condition. Some serious conditions that can cause secondary headaches during sex include:

Secondary sex headaches with a serious cause are likely to occur alongside other symptoms, such as:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a stiff neck
  • loss of consciousness

People who experience these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

An orgasm headache is a type of primary headache that occurs during sexual activity.

Orgasm headaches may result from a rapid expansion of blood vessels in the brain. This occurs when a person’s blood pressure rises before and during orgasms.

It is best for anybody who experiences orgasm headaches to contact their doctor for an evaluation. The doctor can recommend medications to help treat or prevent headaches.