How to guide - How Female Sexual Arousal Works

The female sexual response is dependant on what goes on in the mind and body. Several systems in the body are involved including the nervous, endocrine or hormonal, cardiovascular, respiratory, and of course the reproductive system. There are five stages of arousal that are associated with physiological and psychological changes; desire, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

Stage 1: Desire

The first stage is desire, which stimulates sexual excitement and sexual activity. Desire occurs in our minds and bodies when responding sexually to a variety of stimuli including sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, movement, fantasy, and memory. These stimuli can create a strong wanting for sexual stimulation. Societal and cultural values influence the range of stimuli that provoke sexual desire, and ideals about the stimuli considered "sexual" or "attractive" can vary greatly between cultures and among subsets of a single culture. In addition, each individual reacts to sets of stimuli that are based on his or her own thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Stage 2: Excitement

The second stage is excitement, which is the body's physical response to the stimuli during the desire phase. The excitement stage, for some women, may be achieved with very little physical or mental stimulation. However, other women may require significant intimacy, physical stimulation, or fantasy because it can take longer for them to achieve full arousal. Induced by emotional changes, the excitement stage typically includes: an increase in heart rate, bl**d pressure, and respiration; breasts increase in size and the nipples become erect; the vagina lengthens and widens; the clitoris swells and enlarges; the labia swell and separate; the vagina becomes lubricated; and the uterus rises slightly while the uterine and cervical glands secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina. With the increase of bl**d flow, a woman will experience heightened sensitivity as the vaginal swelling and lubrication occurs. Vaginal lubrication is the key indicator of sexual excitement.

Stage 3: Plateau

The third stage is called plateau. It is the highest moment of sexual excitement before the fourth stage, which is called orgasm. As long as physical or mental stimulation continues during full arousal, the plateau stage can be achieved. This stage can be achieved, lost, and regained several times without the occurrence of orgasm with the following physiological changes: heart rate and breathing rate further increase; bl**d pressure rises even more; muscle tension increases; the clitoris withdraws; the Bartholin's glands lubricate; the areolae around the nipples become larger; the labia continues to swell; the uterus tips to stand high in the abdomen; and the lower vagina swells, narrows and tightens.

Stage 4: Orgasm

The fourth stage is orgasm, which occurs at the peak of the plateau stage. At the moment of orgasm, the sexual tension that has been building throughout the body is released, and the body releases chemicals called endorphins, which causes a sense of well-being. The intensity of an orgasm(s) can vary among women and varies from one sexual experience to another. Orgasm may involve intense spasm and loss of awareness, or it may be signaled by as little as a sigh or subtle relaxation. Women are capable of having multiple orgasms, which means moving immediately from orgasm back into the plateau stage and back to the orgasm stage again. During this stage the heart rate, breathing, and bl**d pressure all reach their highest peak. Also, there is a loss of muscle control or spasms that involve synchronized contractions of the vaginal and abdominal muscles that, when released with endorphins, cause extremely intense pleasure. The uterus, vagina, anus, and other pelvic muscles contract five to twelve times at 0.8-second intervals.

Stage 5: Resolution

The final phase, after the orgasm stage, is called resolution. During this stage, the heart rate and bl**d pressure slow below normal but then return to normal soon afterward. As the bl**d flows away from the vagina, bl**d vessels dilate to drain the pelvic tissues. The breasts and areolae shrink in size and the nipples lose their erection. The clitoris resumes its position prior to arousal and shrinks slightly. The labia returns to normal size and position, the vagina relaxes, the cervix opens to help semen travel up into the uterus but then closes approximately 20 - 30 minutes after orgasm and the uterus lowers into the upper vagina region. As everything gets back to its pre-arousal state, there is a loss of muscle tension and an increase in relaxation and drowsiness.
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