Having Severe Headaches After Orgasm? Beware Of HAWSA, A Painful Rare Condition

A woman in Hyderabad went to see a neurologist with a quirky problem – having a headache after orgasm. According to the doctor, this rare occurrence, known as HWAS happens in only 2 per cent of people across the world, where you may notice a dull pain in the head and neck that builds up as sexual excitement increases or even suffer from a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm. Read on to know what it is.
orgasm headaches

Headaches Associated with Sexual Activity or HAWSA, a rare syndrome is experienced by 2 per cent people across the world

New Delhi: A doctor has revealed a peculiar case of a 44-year-old woman with a peculiar problem - having severe headaches after orgasm. According to Dr. Sudhir Kumar, a renowned neurologist with Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, she has been suffering from Headaches Associated With Sexual Activity or HAWSA, a rare syndrome.
Dr. Kumar says you may notice a dull pain in the head and neck that builds up as sexual excitement increases or even suffer from a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm. Even though most sex headaches are nothing to worry about, some can be a sign of a serious ailment like problems with the blood vessels that feed the brain.
Informing about the syndrome in a series of tweets on X (formerly Twitter), Dr. Kumar said the woman (name changed to Anubha) had a headache episode that would last for 30 to 60-minute duration and was without accompanying nausea or vomiting.
“The pain in the head increases in intensity with increasing sexual arousal, and/or it has abrupt explosive intensity just before or with orgasm, the pain lasts from one minute to 24 hours with severe intensity and/or up to 72 hours with mild intensity, and the pain cannot be better accounted for by another diagnosis,” he wrote.
Dr. Kumar said the woman’s husband told him he initially thought that this could be a psychological problem as this was a second marriage for both of them. “On detailed querying by her husband, Anubha denied any psychological symptoms or unhappiness in the marriage. She expressed her deep love and insisted that she did not have any problems with their sexual life as well,” Dr. Kumar wrote.
According to studies, many people who have sex headaches experience them in clusters over a few months, and then they may go for a year or more without having any.
Up to half of all people with sex headaches experience them over about six months. Some people may only have one attack during their lives. 1
According to Neurology Live, around 2 per cent of adults report that they have experienced headaches associated with sexual activity and that such headaches can be severe.
The following are the three main types of sex-related headaches:
A dull ache in the head and neck that begins before orgasm and gets worse as sexual arousal increases. It is similar to a tension headache.
An intensely painful headache that begins during orgasm and can last for hours. Doctors say it is just like a thunderclap headache that grabs attention because it comes on like a clap of thunder. It is often described as beginning all of a sudden, and like someone hits with a hammer.
A headache that occurs after sex and can range from mild to extremely painful. This headache gets worse when you stand and lessens by lying on the bed.

Signs and symptoms

Those who experience headaches during sex due to an underlying cause may experience additional symptoms that are a sign of another that may be life-threatening, which may include:
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Double vision
  • Numbness or weakness

What causes HAWSA?

According to experts, you may have orgasm-related headaches because of an internal leak of spinal fluid, which extends down from the skull into the spine. When there is a leak in the fluid with heightened sexual activity, the brain sags downward when the patient stands, causing pain.
Doctors recommend getting a thorough neurological evaluation to rule out secondary causes like hemorrhage, brain aneurysm, stroke, cervical artery dissection, or subdural hematoma – all of which can be life-threatening.
According to a few studies, primary sex headaches also happen due to excessive contraction of neck and jaw muscles during sexual activity or from changes in blood flow to the brain during sexual activity.

How to treat HAWSA?

Experts say men are 3-4 times more likely to get headaches associated with sexual activity than women, and depending on the type of headache, pain-killer medications can help relieve the pain or even prevent the headache.
To reduce the risk, doctors advise the patients should:
  • Exercise regularly to increase blood flow in the body
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Seek counselling if necessary
  • Take medications to break up blood clots, after extensive medical tests
  • Take triptan medications (only after a prescription from our doctor) used for the treatment of migraine headaches
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.
End of Article