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Female Orgasm: Still A Mystery To Many

By Amy Otis

An orgasm is an emotional and physical experience that occurs during a "sexual response cycle". Before an orgasm, the body becomes increasingly excited. Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure increases. The pupils of the eyes dilate; the lips of the mouth darken, the nipples become erect, the clitoris swells and becomes hard and exposed, (much like the aroused penis). With increased excitement, the skin becomes flushed and it begins to sweat.

In women, the labia, clitoris, vagina and pelvic organs enlarge in very much the same way as the aroused penis enlarges. Sometimes there is a plateau of excitement that is held for several minutes before you are about to orgasm.

Orgasm is the point at which all the tension is suddenly released in a series of involuntary and pleasurable muscular contractions that may be felt in the vagina and/or uterus (some women do experience orgasms without contractions). The orgasm happens when excitement seems to go over the edge; a climax or crescendo is reached which may last several seconds or longer.

During orgasm the body stiffens and the muscles contract. Involuntary muscle contractions and spasms may occur in various parts of the body, including your legs, stomach, arms, and back. The muscles of the vagina relax and contract rapidly, as do the muscles of the uterus. The glands of the vagina (Bartholin's glands) discharge a watery secretion, which acts to lubricate the vagina. It is sometimes said to be the equivalent to the male ejaculation.

The main physical changes that occur during a sexual experience are a result of vaso-congestion. This is defined as the accumulation of blood in various parts of the body.

Multiple Orgasms in Women
It's no secret that many women have multiple orgasms. Masters and Johnson documented this occurrence more than 25 years ago. However, do they serve a purpose besides from a pleasurable one? Theories suggest that muscular contractions associated with orgasms pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's in better position to reach the egg. Researchers believe that if a woman climaxes up until 45 minutes after her lover ejaculates, she will retain significantly more sperm than she does after non-orgasmic sex.

Endorphins
Orgasms cause a release of endorphins into one's spinal fluid. Endorphins are also somewhat responsible for the emotion of happiness, pleasure, calming effect and so on.

The Endorphin Mystery
Many researchers believe that strenuous exercise releases endorphins into the blood stream. Others agree that endorphins are released during orgasm, as well as during laughter.

Endorphins are a group of substances formed within the body that naturally relieve pain. They actually have a similar chemical structure to morphine. In addition to their analgesic affect, endorphins are thought to be involved in controlling the body's response to stress, regulating contractions of the intestinal wall, and determining mood. They may also regulate the release of hormones from the pituitary gland, notably growth hormone and the gonadotropin hormone. It also seems that endorphin stimulation may occur with frequent sex and masturbation.

There is no evidence that too much sex (or exercise or laughter, for that matter) and consequential elevated levels of endorphins have any kind of endorphin depletion effect -- that is depletion of bodily endorphins, which could lead to depression. It is believed that endorphins are "recycled" by the body as are other brain chemicals.

Currently, research being done to evaluate the full range of endorphins' functions in the body, especially how they relate to the prevention of illness and their beneficial affects in cancer and depressed patients. This is not a known fact at this time, but speculation by the medical community and a response to a reader's question from one of my web sites.

What's The Difference Between Clitoral and Vaginal Orgasms?
The difference between a "clitoral" and a "vaginal" orgasm is where you are being stimulated to achieve orgasm, not where you feel the orgasm. I hope this clears up some of the confusion around this common question.

The clitoris has a central role in elevating feelings of sexual tension. During sexual excitement, the clitoris swells and changes position. The blood vessels through the whole pelvic area also swell, causing engorgement and creating a feeling a fullness and sexual sensitivity. Your inner vaginal lips swell and change shape. Your vagina balloons upward, and your uterus shifts position in your pelvis.

For some women, the outer third of their vagina and the cervix are also very sensitive or even more sensitive than the clitoris. When stimulated during intercourse or other vaginal penetration, these women do have intense orgasms. This would be what is referred to as a vaginal orgasm -- without clitoral stimulation. (Sigmund Freud made a pronouncement that the "mature" woman has orgasms only when her vagina, but not her clitoris, is stimulated). This of course, made the man's penis central to a woman's sexual satisfaction.

In reality, orgasms are a very individual experience and there is no one correct pattern of sexual response. Whatever feels wonderful to you, makes you feel alive and happy, and connected with your partner is what matters. Enjoy!

Amy Otis, RN is the founder of several health-related web sites and ghost writer for several others. She currently owns and writes for http://www.sex-ed101.org and http://www.beingwoman.net  Stop by you might just learn something.

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Recommended Reading: Click on the text for more or to purchase the book.

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For more than 20 years, Betty Dodson has been dedicated to taking the shame out of masturbation, showing it to be a healthy form of sexual expression. With informative line drawings, Dodson explains how anyone can learn to fully enjoy the pleasures of self-love.

What Your Mother Never Told You about Sex! - by Dr. Hutchinson
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