Julie Medical Advisor
What happens to your body after sex
What Happens to the Female Body After Sex
Even under the best circumstances, sex (and here we’re talking about penetrative vaginal sex) can result in some less-than-sexy side effects. Some of these things are totally normal, while others should be checked out by a medical professional. From pain and bleeding to emotional attachment and odors, we’re discussing why some of these things happen, what can be done at home and when it’s time to seek medical assistance. Whether it’s for yourself or to help a partner, read on to learn more about what can happen to the female body after sex.
Vaginal burning might feel alarming, but it’s a pretty common sensation after sex. Friction is usually the main cause, and a lack of lubrication exacerbates it. One way to reduce friction (and prevent that burning sensation) is to add lubrication before or during sexual activity. “Natural” lubrication is produced with sexual arousal, so increasing the foreplay may be sufficient to relieve symptoms. Using an over-the-counter lubricant is also a safe option. Water-based lubricants are generally well-tolerated, inexpensive and safe to use with condoms. Silicone-based lubricants are a bit more expensive but are safe with condoms and require less-frequent reapplication. Oil-based lubes are also widely available but should never be used with condoms as they can cause the condom to rip or tear.
Vulvar itching is another unpleasant after-sex side effect. There are a variety of things that can cause itching, including friction, pubic hair irritation, poor lubrication, an allergy to latex condoms or an allergy to lube. Most of these should resolve on their own. However, if itching or redness persist, you may have a more severe issue like an infection or skin condition. Make an appointment with your doctor to rule out any underlying issues.
Vaginal soreness after sex can be normal, especially if the duration or intensity of sex was exceptional. However, it's important to differentiate between normal soreness and severe or persistent pain. Soreness should subside on its own within 24 hours or so, but consistent pain may indicate an underlying issue, such as endometriosis. If soreness intensifies or lasts longer than it should, schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Feelings of Attachment
While sex is a physical act, it can lead to complicated emotional feelings. And there’s a biological reason for this. During sexual activity, the body releases oxytocin, often called "the love hormone." This hormone plays a significant role in bonding and emotional attachment, leading to feelings of trust, closeness, and intimacy between partners.
The sight of blood may be concerning, but there are a variety of reasons that someone may experience spotting or light bleeding after sex. If it’s the first time (or even first few times) you’ve had penetrative vaginal sex, seeing a little blood can mean your hymen has torn (which is completely normal). Other common causes of spotting after sex include dryness/insufficient lubrication, the start or end of a period and STIs (sexually-transmitted infections). While it’s usually not a cause for alarm, frequent or heavy spotting means you should probably see your doctor.
Orgasms are essentially muscle contractions. This can also cause a cramping sensation similar to menstrual cramps. Cramps should subside after a few minutes. However, if you experience severe or prolonged cramping after sex, consult with your doctor to make sure there’s nothing else contributing to painful orgasms.
It’s no surprise that you might be tired after sex. Apart from feeling like you just worked out, feeling sleepy can happen for a number of reasons. The release of hormones and neurotransmitters during and after orgasm can induce feelings of relaxation and drowsiness. Though more research is needed, one 2016 study suggested that sex can improve sleep for those with female genitalia who deal with insomnia.
If you have sex without a barrier method (like a condom) you might experience semen leakage. We know sperm can hang out in the female reproductive system for up to six days, but the body does not absorb semen. Instead, it exits the vagina, causing feelings of wetness after sex. Sitting on the toilet often helps semen exit the vagina, while peeing can help to prevent infection by expelling bacteria from the urethra.
Feeling flushed after sex? The excitement and physical arousal of sex can lead to a flushed appearance. It occurs because blood rushes to the face, giving you a warm, rosy complexion. It usually disappears in minutes, but it can also last up to an hour for some.
The vagina can appear slightly enlarged or swollen after sex. The effect is temporary and usually caused by swelling from friction and increased blood flow during sexual activity. Having rougher sex and not using lubrication can also cause swelling. But like other after-sex effects, it should subside quickly.
Some people with vaginas may notice a musk or funky smell after sex. Oddly enough, this can be completely normal. It’s because the pH of the vagina, which is usually acidic, temporarily changes to a basic pH in the presence of semen. This creates an abnormal, transient odor. Your vulva also has a high concentration of sweat glands, just like your armpits. When you sweat down there during sex, it can cause odor. If the smell does not resolve on its own, it is possible that an infection (like bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis) might be to blame. If you have concerns, schedule an appointment with your medical provider for testing and treatment options.
If you don’t use barrier protection like a condom, dental dam, or female condom, there’s a high chance of contracting or giving a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Keep in mind that STIs do not always have symptoms. When they do have symptoms, burning, itching or foul odor may be confused for a normal after-sex effect. The difference is that STI symptoms don’t usually subside or resolve on their own. If you think you might have an STI, or if you’re due for your routine screening, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
People with vaginas are more likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTIs) after sex than those with penises. That is because the female urethra is shorter, making it easier for bacteria to enter and reach the bladder. Furthermore, the urethral opening is very close to the vaginal opening. Penetrative vaginal sex causes friction and bacterial exposure to the urethral opening, increasing the risk of developing a UTI. After sex, make sure you pee to help flush bacteria out of the urethra and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Practice after-sex care
Yes, after-sex care is a thing, and luckily it’s not hard to do. The first step is one we mention a lot: go pee! After that, check in with your body and your partner. If you had unprotected sex and you’re not actively using a form of birth control, consider taking a morning-after pill like Julie ASAP. Read our complete after-sex checklist here.
Although the information above may be useful, it shouldn’t replace the advice of your healthcare professional. For questions about emergency contraception or birth control, please talk to your healthcare professional.
There are a few medications that may interact with the morning-after pill. The most common medications include:
-Some anti-HIV medications
-Some anti-seizure medications
-Rifampin (an antibiotic mainly used to treat tuberculosis)
-St. John’s wort
If you have concerns about a medicine you are taking potentially interacting with the morning-after pill, please consult with a pharmacist or medical provider.
No, studies have confirmed that taking two pills will not change the effectiveness of the morning-after pill, even for those with higher BMIs.
Essentially nothing. Julie is not an abortion pill and it will not harm or end an existing pregnancy. Julie helps prevent pregnancy by stopping or delaying ovulation, but if you’re pregnant, then there’s no ovulation to stop. The medication, levonorgestrel, won’t harm you or your fetus if you do end up taking Julie while pregnant. This makes Julie a great option for people who want to be safe after unprotected sex—if you aren’t pregnant yet, it may stop a pregnancy from occurring, and if you are already pregnant, it won’t impact the fetus.
No. The morning-after pill only stops ovulation short-term. When you take it after unprotected sex, it reduces your chance of getting pregnant now. When you start a new cycle next month, you’ll go through a brand new ovulation phase, which is a new opportunity to get pregnant. So if you’re planning on having babies in the future, rest assured your chances of getting pregnant won’t be affected by Julie.
After taking Julie you can continue on with your regular birth control method if you have one (for example, continue taking birth control pills).
You will know Julie has been effective when you get your next period, which should come at the expected time, or within a week of the expected time. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional.
Julie is a backup or emergency method and should not be used as a regular birth control method. Consult with your doctor about a birth control method that makes sense for you.
Please know that taking a dose of Julie will only protect you from one instance of unprotected sex, it will not prevent pregnancy from unprotected sex over the coming days or weeks. If you have unprotected sex in the future and want to prevent pregnancy, be sure to take a new dose of Julie and talk to your doctor about the best birth control options for you.
Your menstrual bleeding patterns may change temporarily after using levonorgestrel. If you find that your period is more than a week late, take a pregnancy test to confirm whether the contraceptive has worked.
Technically, no. Julie can be used by anyone with a uterus regardless of weight. However, studies have shown that the effectiveness of the morning-after pill does decrease in people who have a body mass index (BMI) over 25. For those with a BMI under 25, pregnancy risk after taking the morning-after pill is less than 2%. For those with a BMI over 29.9, the risk of pregnancy increases to 5.8% - meaning that out of every 100 individuals with a BMI over 29.9 who take Julie, six may become pregnant.
Why? Unfortunately, we don’t really know. There is only preliminary research testing the efficacy of the morning-after pill on people with a BMI over 25 and 30. Read more here.
Julie is not an abortion pill and will not harm an existing pregnancy nor will it be effective if a woman is already pregnant.
Julie is a progestin‑only emergency contraception product that helps prevent pregnancy before it starts when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
Julie is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control. Use as directed.
The medication in the morning-after pill, levonorgestrel, temporarily blocks or delays ovulation, which is when your ovary releases an egg. It essentially puts the emergency brakes on your ovaries so an egg can’t be released. If there’s no egg, then there’s nothing for sperm to fertilize, which means a pregnancy can’t develop.
Read more about how the morning-after pill works here.
The morning-after pill, like Julie, is 89% effective when taken within 72 hours (or 3 days) after unprotected sex. The golden rule is the sooner you take it, the better it will work.
One thing to note: Weight does impact the effectiveness of the morning-after pill. If your BMI is over 25, Julie may not be the best option for you, but there are other options if you have access to a medical provider. Ella® is another type of emergency contraception pill that works more effectively for women with a BMI under 30. Like Julie, it’s a one-time pill but it does require a prescription from your provider. Copper and hormonal IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraceptive and are not affected by weight at all. However, they do need to be inserted by a healthcare professional up to 5 days after having unprotected sex.
Learn more about how weight impacts Julie here.
You do not need to see a doctor before or after taking Julie because the pill is available without a prescription. However, there are a few reasons you might want to speak with a doctor after unprotected sex. The first reason is that unprotected sex carries the risk of catching sexually-transmitted infections. The second reason is that the morning-after pill is not as effective as regular birth control. A doctor will be able to counsel you on better options if you plan to remain sexually active.
Since emergency contraception can affect the length of your menstrual cycle, your period might come about a week later or earlier than usual after taking Julie. If your period is more than one week late, consider the possibility of pregnancy.
No, the morning-after pill (including Julie) and the abortion pill are two very different medications. The morning-after pill prevents a pregnancy from starting by stopping an egg from being released. If there’s no egg, there’s no chance of pregnancy. Plus, it’s FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states.
On the other hand, the abortion pill ends an existing pregnancy, which is something that the morning-after pill cannot do. If you’re already pregnant, the morning-after pill and the medicine within it, levonorgestrel, cannot end the pregnancy or impact it in any way.
See more common morning-after pill myths here.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or EC. However, some insurances require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and places where EC is sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
The morning-after pill—like Julie— is one of the most common and convenient forms of emergency contraception. It’s an over-the-counter pill found at retail chains like Target, CVS, and Walmart nationwide. The morning-after pill is made of the hormone levonorgestrel, the same hormone found in many birth control pills and is FDA-approved and legal in all 50 states. When used correctly, it can significantly reduce your chance of getting pregnant. It doesn’t require a prescription, ID, or credit card, and can be purchased easily by anyone (you, your partner, your friend, or the nice guy from GoPuff). Learn more about the morning-after pill here.
The morning-after pill is a backup method of preventing pregnancy and should not be used as regular birth control.
You should take Julie if you had unprotected penis-to-vagina sex and:
- You didn’t use any form of birth control
- Your birth control method failed—e.g. the condom broke or slipped off
- You missed 2 or more doses of your regular birth control pill
- You’re not sure if he pulled out in time
Remember to take Julie ASAP to have the best chance of it working. It’s 89% effective when taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but can be effective up to 120 hours after. Learn more about Julie here.
No. No one needs a prescription to purchase Julie or other brands of the morning-after pill. However, some insurance companies require a prescription for reimbursement. Some pharmacies and other places where emergency contraceptives are sold may tell you that you need a prescription. You do not.
Take the Julie tablet orally (swallowed). It is preferable to take it with water, and you can take it with or without food. Do not insert Julie vaginally.
No. We know this is a common misconception so let’s break it down. Using Julie (no matter how many times you take it) does not affect your fertility — and it will not prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future. You should feel free to use Julie whenever you think it’s necessary. Julie (and all EC) is not recommended as an ongoing form of birth control because it’s not as effective at preventing pregnancy as birth control methods like the IUD, patch, pill, ring, or shot. Also, frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable. That’s it!
You can get Julie at your local CVS, Target, Walmart or on our website.
No, that’s not recommended. Emergency contraceptives, like Julie, work when you take them after sex. That’s because emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by delaying when you ovulate, which is when an egg is released from the ovary. Sperm can live inside you for up to 5 days, so if you take Julie and then have unprotected sex, the medication might not be able to delay ovulation for the entire length of the sperm’s life, creating a potential for pregnancy.
Learn more about how Julie works here.
Yes. You are not alone. Often times, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy.
Julie and other over-the-counter morning-after pills contain a high amount of levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that’s also in some birth control pills. The extra amount of this hormone can affect your menstrual cycle and cause some side effects. Most side effects come and go within hours of taking the pill, but some can last up to a couple of days. Learn more about Julie's side effects here.
- Bleeding/spotting between periods
- Temporary changes to a period cycle (the next period comes early or late)
- Heavier or lighter next period
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
For more information about Julie side effects and how long they last, read this.
Side effects like nausea, abdominal pain, and fatigue can start within a few hours of taking the morning-after pill. If you vomit within two hours of taking the pill, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional to find out if you should take another dose.
Most side effects are easily manageable, but sometimes they can be annoying. If that headache just won’t go away or your breasts are super tender, it’s safe to take ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or any over-the-counter pain reliever—they won’t interact or interfere with levonorgestrel.
Listen to your body. After all, you’ve just taken a pill that affects your hormones. Feeling a little weird is normal. Rest, keep yourself hydrated, and give yourself some extra compassion.
No. Julie is not what is commonly called “the abortion pill” or “medication abortion”. The active ingredient in the abortion pill is mifepristone. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally. Mifepristone blocks your body’s own progesterone, stopping the pregnancy from growing. Julie does not and will not impact an existing pregnancy, and works by delaying ovulation before there is a pregnancy.
The FDA recently made an update in December 2022 to remove any language suggesting that Julie may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. We are currently working on removing this outdated disclaimer but you may still see it present on some of our packaging in the meantime. Please disregard these statements because they are out of date. Julie will not impact an existing pregnancy.
Your cycle might be temporarily affected after taking Julie. That’s because there’s a higher dose of levonorgestrel compared to what’s found in daily birth control pills. It’s likely to impact your body’s natural hormone levels for a short period of time. This might result in an earlier or later period.
If your period is delayed beyond one week, it is possible you may be pregnant. You should get a pregnancy test and follow up with your healthcare professional if positive. Your period might also be lighter or heavier than usual, or you might experience spotting in between cycles. If your schedule is impacted beyond a month or two, it’s worth checking in with your medical provider. Read more about how Julie might affect your period here.
No! The most common side effects are changes in your period, nausea, lower stomach pain, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and breast tenderness. These symptoms typically go away within a few hours and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. If you have any side effects that bother you, call your healthcare professional. Read more about Julie's side effects here.
Yes. You are not alone. Oftentimes, people who buy EC are feeling stressed out, concerned, embarrassed, confused or ashamed. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and the Julie community is here to support you. By taking Julie after unprotected sex, you are taking control of your future and taking a safe, effective, approved method of preventing pregnancy. If you want to share your experience and talk with others in our community, head to our Tik Tok, Instagram, and Quora space, After Sex, where all sex questions and commentary are welcome.
It depends. Some people get their period a few days earlier or later than they were expecting, while some have reported a delay in menstruation beyond a week. Stress can also delay your period, which can be heightened when taking emergency contraception. If your period is more than one week late, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant, but it is recommended to take a pregnancy test.
Waiting for your period to arrive can be stressful, especially after taking emergency contraception, but just know that it might be totally normal. A delayed or early period is actually one of the most common side effects of taking the morning-after pill. Levonorgestrel, the hormone in Julie, delays ovulation, which can move the timing of your cycle back a few days. Your period might also be lighter or heavier than usual, or you might experience spotting in between cycles. If your period is delayed beyond one week, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant, but it is recommended to take a pregnancy test. You can read more about how Julie might affect your period here.
The best thing to do after taking Julie is to rest and hydrate. If you’re feeling any side effects, you can take over-the-counter painkillers to make yourself feel more comfortable. A heating pad or hot water bottle can also help if you’re having stomach pain or cramping. If you can, a day on the couch with Netflix or a good book often does the trick. Read more about managing Julie side effects here.
Typically just for one menstrual cycle. Most people notice that their period starts either a few days early or a few days late, though some people have reported a two-week delay in menstruation. If you are not pregnant, your cycle should return to normal the next time you get your period. If changes last beyond a month or two, it’s best to check in with a doctor.
Read more about changes to your period after taking Julie here.