HEADACHES are a problem that most people will experience at some point in their lives; but what if, strangely enough, they are a direct result of sexual activity?
According to obstetrician-gynaecologist (ObGyn) Dr Anna-Kay Taylor Christmas, these coital headaches are a significant source of distress for people who suffer from them.
“They are rare, occurring in only about one per cent of the population, and are more common in men than women (up to three times as much in certain countries). It happens most commonly between the ages of 20 to 24 years and again between 35 to 44 years,” she said.
But how do you know whether your headaches are coital or due to some other cause?
Dr Taylor Christmas said coital headaches are:
1. Not dependent on specific sexual habits, and can even occur during masturbation.
2. Much more common in people who suffer from migraines.
3. Usually found to begin with sexual excitement and become more intense at orgasm.
4. Commonly on both sides of the head (although one-third of persons may have it on one side only).
5. Known to last for only one minute in some instances, or up to 72 hours in severe cases.
The ObGyn added that some people are more at risk for getting coital headaches, including those who:
1. Are obese.
2. Use the kneeling position during intercourse.
3. Are undergoing severe stress.
4. Usually have migraines.
5. Use marijuana or certain medications (including amphetamines, pseudoephidrine, birth control pills and some anxiety medication).
Dr Taylor Christmas said that in diagnosing coital headaches, other more serious causes must first be ruled out — such as bleeding in the brain, abnormal blood vessel connections in the brain, or ruptured blood vessels in the brain. Brain scans are often required to rule out more serious causes.
With regards to treatment, the ObGyn said that after more serious causes have been eliminated, then patients can be reassured.
“We suggest weight reduction and an increase in exercise. Taking the passive role in intercourse may also be helpful, and we recommend engaging in sexual activity less strenuously. We also advise avoidance of drugs which act as trigger factors,” she said.
Dr Taylor Christmas added that for those whose symptoms are more severe and which interfere with normal activities, medication has been found to be helpful.
“This includes heart medication such as propranolol, calcium-channel blockers and beta blockers, as well as indomethacin,” she said.
“The good news about coital headaches is that many patients will only experience one episode and then it will go away by itself. For those who have persistent headaches, they tend to resolve within three years in most cases,” she advised.