It’s not uncommon for people to feel nauseated or sick to their stomach when they get sexually aroused or turned on. There are a few potential reasons why this happens.
The Vagus Nerve Connection
The vagus nerve connects the brain to many of the body’s internal organs, including the heart, lungs, and digestive system. When you get sexually excited, your heart rate increases, you breathe heavier, and you might feel butterflies in your stomach. All of these responses are controlled by the vagus nerve.
The vagus nerve may overreact to sexual arousal, leading to nausea or vomiting. This is sometimes called a vasovagal response. The same thing can happen to some people when they have pain, see blood, or get an injection.
Sexual arousal triggers a cascade of hormone releases in the body. Estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins all increase. These hormones are designed to prepare your body for intercourse and childbirth. But the rapid changes in hormone levels can leave some individuals feeling lightheaded, dizzy, or sick to their stomach.
Many people feel anxious about having sex, especially if they lack experience or have fears of pregnancy, STDs, or “performing” well. This type of performance anxiety can manifest physically with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. Anxiety activates the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body’s fight-or-flight response. Part of this reaction involves shutting down the digestive system, which may lead to nausea.
In some cases, feeling nauseated during arousal is not normal and could signal an underlying medical condition. Examples include:
– Endometriosis – irritation and inflammation of the uterus, ovaries, or fallopian tubes can cause nausea with sex.
– Fibroids – benign tumors in the uterus may cause pain and nausea.
– Vaginismus – involuntary spasms of the vaginal muscles during entry attempts.
– Vulvodynia – unexplained vulva pain that gets worse with touch or pressure.
– Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis – chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
– Migraines – these debilitating headaches can be triggered by sexual activity.
– Diabetes – uncontrolled blood sugar levels from diabetes often cause nausea and vomiting.
If nausea is severe or persists after sex, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor for evaluation. Some testing and imaging scans may be necessary to check for potential problems like endometriosis, fibroids, or vaginismus. Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include medications, physical therapy, or surgery in some cases.
For many people, nausea during sex is situational and manageable with lifestyle changes:
– Slow down – take things slow to allow your body to relax and become fully aroused before penetration.
– Try positions where you are in control – being on top lets you control depth and angle of penetration.
– Communicate with your partner – tell them when you need to pause or stop.
– Breathe deeply – use abdominal breathing techniques to relax.
– Have a light meal – avoid having sex when very hungry or overly full.
– Stay hydrated – dehydration can worsen nausea.
– Distract yourself – focus on the pleasurable sensations rather than your nerves.
– Use protection – avoid pregnancy fears by properly using birth control.
– Seek counseling – address psychological hangups with a therapist.
– Practice meditation – relax your mind through meditation prior to intercourse.
– Take medication – over-the-counter anti-nausea medication may help temporarily.
Experiencing nausea during sex can be worrisome but is rarely serious. Pay attention to your body’s cues and see your doctor if needed. Often it resolves on its own with time as you become more comfortable with sexual activity. If it persists, don’t hesitate to seek help to get to the root cause.