Back to the Questions

What happens to your body after sex

by Dr. Tessa Commers
Julie Medical Advisor
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.

Semen Leakage

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.

Flushed Look

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.

Vaginal Swelling

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.

Funky Smell

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.