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Sneezing, Crying, Seizures: Just Some Rare Orgasm Side Effects

Oh, and foot orgasms.
Simone Becchetti/Stocksy

Sex is great. Sex can keep you satisfied for a whole two days, and improve your job performance. But sometimes, orgasms can come with unpleasant side effects—say, a bout of tears, pain, or maybe even a seizure, according to a recent review of studies.

Gynecologists James Simon, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The George Washington University School of Medicine, and Anna Reinert of the University of Maryland Medical Center assembled a list of "peri-orgasmic phenomena," or abnormal orgasmic responses, that they'd heard about in their careers. Next, they used the list to search for instances of each (admittedly rare) response in scientific literature, mostly in the form of case reports.


On this list of orgasm side-effects were: laughing, crying, sneezing, and general weakness, aka cataplexy. While they didn't find any medical literature describing laugh-cums, they did locate a dating column with a letter from a woman complaining about her boyfriend cracking up as he was finishing. Crying or feeling depressed after sex falls under the umbrella of Postcoital Dysphoria, or PCD; however, other research shows no direct connection between climax and PCD, as people can experience dysphoria even after romps where they don't orgasm. The authors note it's not a true post-orgasm phenomenon, but they wanted to mention it nonetheless.

As for sneezing, doctors think it could be because stimuli (in this case, sexual in nature) could be activating multiple parts of the parasympathetic nervous system, rather than just one. Sneezing was mostly reported in men. Some men experience what's known as post-orgasm illness syndrome where they feel tired and feverish, almost flu-like, for as long as four to seven days.

Some reports also described foot, ear, or facial pain, as well as headaches lasting anywhere between a few minutes and three hours. In researching foot pain, they found a case of a 55-year old woman who would experience random orgasmic sensations in her left foot after a stint in ICU. And when she had a clitoral or vaginal orgasm, her foot would, too. Her doctors suspected that this was a result of damaged nerve fibers that had only partially regenerated. The authors also encountered more extreme reactions, such as seizures. These seizures were determined to be a type of "reflex epilepsy," with orgasms serving as the stimuli. Some people had long experienced seizures before developing them in response to sex while others first presented with so-called "orgasmolepsy."

Sex comes in all shapes and forms, so it's no surprise that orgasms do, too. So if you or your partner ever let out a post-climax giggle, try not to take it to heart, it's probably just physiological. Except for that guy who yelled profanities at Charlotte on Sex and the City — the researchers found zero case reports connecting orgasm and cursing.

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