Some people with vulvas are pros when it comes to masturbation. They've been doing it for years — in some cases, before they had any idea why humping their pillow or favorite stuffed animal made them feel so good. But thanks to all the ridiculous (and completely unwarranted) stigma and shame surrounding self-pleasure, far too many other vulva-owners are adults by the time they realize what all the fuss is about. And yes, this can definitely be true in cases where the person is no stranger to having sex with a partner. For some of us, the only path to the big "O" is clitoral stimulation, and, welp, a sex partner doesn't always nail that part. Enter: solo play. Whether you've only just started self-exploring or are circling back around to it, you may experience one side effect you weren't expecting: cramps after masturbation.
As a person with a vulva who is sexually active, you probably know by now that the body is a glorious but mysterious vessel. It can bring intense pleasure followed by mind-boggling — not in a good way — quirks and discomfort. Legs shaking after sex? It’s a thing. Bloating after a good romp? Yep, that too. And while you almost expect that you might have some strange postcoital effects, it can still freak you out. The same goes for cramps after masturbation, something you probably didn't see coming (pardon the pun).
So, yes, this does happen — more than you might actually think it would. However, the good news is that it's usually not a reason to worry. Here's why some people get cramps after masturbation and what to know if it happens to you.
Why do I get cramps after masturbating?
First of all, know that you're not alone. "Cramps can definitely happen after masturbating," says Jennifer Lincoln, MD, an OB-GYN and author of Let's Talk About Down There: An OB-GYN Answers All Your Burning Questions…without Making You Feel Embarrassed for Asking.
Part of having an orgasm involves uterine contractions, which can feel like a cramping sensation. "If you orgasm while masturbating, your body releases oxytocin," she tells Scary Mommy. "This is known as the 'love' or 'feel-good hormone,' but it's also important to know it is the same hormone that causes uterine contractions in labor — hence the feeling of cramping for some people."
These contractions aren't typically painful — just something you may be aware of — and they tend to go away on their own within a few minutes. But that's not always the case. People with pelvic floor dysfunction, fibroids, or vaginismus may experience cramps after masturbation that are intense or uncomfortable from the pelvic floor muscles contracting during orgasm, notes Lincoln.
Also, the cramps don't always feel like they're happening in your vagina, or anywhere else in your pelvis, for that matter. That's because when some people with vulvas have a particularly intense orgasm (or are getting ready to have one), they may tense up various muscles in their body — and not always voluntarily. According to psychiatrist Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD, this can result in cramps after masturbation in your legs, feet, hips, butt, or back.
When should you worry?
As long as your cramps aren't bothering you, you probably don't need to worry. "But if it doesn't feel right or it's causing you actual pain, it's a great idea to get checked out," Lincoln says.
What can you do to alleviate it?
If you're regularly experiencing painful cramping during or after masturbating that makes it feel like you need medication or some other form of relief, Lincoln says you should consider mentioning it to your healthcare provider.
"It could be a sign something else is going on, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, or other issues we can diagnose and treat," she explains. "If it's only milder, or happens every once in a while but isn't bothersome, you can always consider a heating pad, bath, or medication like Tylenol or ibuprofen."
In other words, if your cramps after masturbation aren't painful or uncomfortable, go ahead and keep doing your thing. Who knows? Perhaps the best treatment for this type of pleasure-induced pain is... more pleasure.
Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, an OB-GYN and author of Let’s Talk About Down There: An OB-GYN Answers All Your Burning Questions... without Making You Feel Embarrassed for Asking
Psychiatrist Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD