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7 Things You Should Never Do Before and After Sex

These little habits can ruin your fun and affect your health, too.

Medically reviewed in November 2022

Updated on November 8, 2022

happy couple, in bed, relationships, sex and relationships
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It’s no secret that regular intimacy can benefit your mental and physical health. Among other perks, sex may improve your heart function, lower your stress and anxiety levels, and reduce aches and pains.

Unfortunately, some seemingly innocent habits before and after intercourse could lead to discomfort or health issues. With that in mind, here are seven things to avoid.

curry, butter chicken, tikka masala, chicken tikka
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Don’t eat super spicy foods or a meal high in fat

If you’re planning to have sex, you may want to scale back on fiery foods. Spicy items like curry and hot peppers can trigger symptoms of acid reflux, including heartburn, a burning sensation in the throat. In turn, this may make it difficult to get in the mood. If your body is sensitive to spice, you may not be able to hold in gas, either.

Citrus fruits, carbonated drinks, caffeinated beverages, and rich, heavy foods that are high in fat (such as fried chicken) can also give you heartburn, since they’re harder for your body to digest.

So, go easy on your stomach. Bites like bananas, oatmeal, apples, and graham crackers are less likely to give you heartburn.

medicine, taking medication, pill
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Don’t take an antihistamine

Feeling stuffy? You may want to hold off on taking cough and cold meds if you’re planning to have sex later. Antihistamines, which help dry up runny noses, can also have a drying effect on the vagina since the drugs affect mucous membranes all over the body.  

Sex without lubrication may not be very pleasant. In fact, it can cause burning, itching, and pain. So, when you take antihistamines, be sure you have a water-based lube handy. This will help ensure you’re wet enough, potentially making the experience more pleasurable.

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Don’t drink too much

While a beer or two may put you in the mood, be careful about drinking alcohol to excess before sex. For one thing, it’s a known risk factor for male erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition that makes it difficult to get or keep an erection strong enough for intercourse. Though a couple of alcohol-induced incidents don’t necessarily mean you have ED, frequent heavy drinking could lead to long-term issues.

In general, it’s best to avoid alcohol or curb your alcohol intake. Experts recommend that women limit themselves to one drink per day, while men should have no more than two. If you are moderating and still have problems with sex, you may want to cut drinking out completely. See a healthcare provider if erections are consistently tough to get or maintain.

shave, razor
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Don’t shave right before

Is shaving your preferred way of grooming? No problem—but you should plan ahead. Shaving makes the skin around your genitals more sensitive and prone to irritation caused by friction during sex.

Lower your risk of discomfort by shaving the day before. To reduce your chances of irritation even further, always use shaving cream or gel, shave in the direction the hair grows, and apply a fragrance-free lotion when you're done.

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Don’t skip peeing if you’re prone to UTIs

Sex can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI) for women, since it may force germs into the urethra. So, it’s ideal to pee before and after sex when possible, as it will reduce the risk of UTIs.

Waiting five minutes after sex is normally okay, though. If you’re sexually active and getting UTIs a lot, you’ll want to be especially diligent about going immediately before and after. You may also want to visit a provider to discuss ways to potentially reduce your UTI frequency.

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Don’t forget to wash your sex toys

Sex toys can be pleasurable. But you have to take care of them so they’ll last—and so they won’t get germy. While it may seem like a no-brainer, dildos, vibrators, penis rings, and straps must be washed to avoid issues like bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal condition that causes a foul-smelling discharge.

Many sex toys come with disinfecting instructions, especially if they are battery operated and have a motor. If they don’t include directions, here are some basic guidelines:

  • Non-porous toys, or toys made of glass, stainless steel, silicone, acrylic, or hard plastic, should be scrubbed lightly with a mild soap and water. Always remember to scour cracks and crevices, since they're breeding grounds for bacteria. You can also boil these toys in hot water for 10 minutes or so if they are not electronic.
  • Porous toys, or toys made of rubber, vinyl, Cyberskin, softskin, ultraskin, nylon or leather, need a very gentle hand soap, or a specific cleaner made just for those types of materials.

If your toys aren't waterproof, it’s best you use a cloth to clean them. If they are waterproof, go ahead and dunk them. 

couple snuggling in bed
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Don't skip the foreplay

Foreplay can get you in the mood—and prepare your genitals for sex. Women may begin to feel wet since there is increased blood flow to the clitoris, while men may start to get an erection as blood flow increases to the penis. Foreplay can also raise your heart rate and may help you feel more relaxed and connected to your partner as you become intimate.

Among other activities, foreplay can include kissing, cuddling, massaging, and oral stimulation. It’s a good time to bring out lube, too. Instead of heading right to the main event, you and your partner can talk about the types of things you both enjoy.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

Sleep Foundation. GERD and Sleep. Updated October 7, 2022.
Heidarzadeh-Esfahani N, Soleimani D, et al. Dietary Intake in Relation to the Risk of Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2021 Dec 31;26(4):367-379. 
Cleveland Clinic. Gastrointestinal Soft Diet Overview. Reviewed February 25, 2021.
Mayo Clinic. Antihistamine, Decongestant, And Anticholinergic Combination (Oral Route). Last updated November 01, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Vaginal Dryness. December 4, 2020.
Urology Care Foundation. Erectile Dysfunction: What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)? Updated June 2018.
Nemours Teens Health. Should I Shave My Pubic Hair Before Having Sex? Date reviewed: October 2018. 
WomensHealth.gov. Urinary tract infections. Page last updated February 22, 2021.
The American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Last updated November 2020.
Mayo Clinic. Vagina: What's typical, what's not. January 18, 2022.
National Health Service (UK). Are sex toys safe? Last reviewed October 12, 2019.
KY.com. How to clean sex toys. Accessed November 8, 2022.
Planned Parenthood. What is foreplay? October 13, 2010.

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