Whether you’re with a partner or enjoying a little time by yourself, orgasms are a pretty great perk of the human body. Add to that the fact that us ladies can enjoy that moment of bliss multiple times in quick succession, and it’s easy to see how extraordinary the female orgasm is. But that’s not all that’s amazing about the climax, there’s a lot to an orgasm than just feeling good – check out 10 of the most interesting facts about female orgasms below.
1. Orgasms shut down a part of your brain.
During arousal and orgasm, there’s a lot going on in your body, especially within the brain. During climax, the area behind your left eye, called the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, actually shuts down. This area is responsible for reason and behavior control – which is probably why you can’t focus on anything else when you climax! Read what else happens within the brain during sex here.
2. The average orgasm is 20 seconds long.
During those 20 seconds, the muscles in your uterus, vagina, anus and pelvis rhythmically contract about every 0.08 seconds. The really good news? Because the strength of your orgasm is tied to the strength of your pelvic floor, you can increase the intensity of your orgasms by exercising those muscles. Kegels tone and tighten your pelvic floor, which can make orgasms stronger and more frequent – but make sure you’re doing them correctly. A smart pelvic floor exerciser can ensure you get the most out of every squeeze (and therefore every orgasm!).
3. Orgasms can replace your painkillers.
When you orgasm, your body releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that floods your body with feelings of relaxation, peace and happiness. According to researchers at Rutgers University, this sensation can temporarily alleviate pain, from a headache and premenstrual cramps to arthritis.
4. Orgasms make both women and men feel more talkative.
According to researchers at the University of Connecticut, the release of oxytocin also increases your sense of bonding and makes you want to share with your partner – also known as pillow talk. (This is probably why oxytocin is nicknamed both the “cuddle” and the “love hormone”.)
5. Orgasms increase your sense of smell.
Orgasms also cause your body to release the hormone prolactin, which stimulates the brain to produce more neurons in the smell center, or olfactory bulb. Interestingly, pregnant women also have higher levels of prolactin – which explains their heightened sense of smell.
6. Doctors used to prescribe orgasms for fertility.
In the early 1900s, many gynecologists believed in the sperm retention, or “up suck”, theory. This theory stated that when a woman had an orgasm, the contractions in her vagina helped move the sperm closer to the egg and thereby increase the odds of conceiving. However, a study in the 1960’s indicated that orgasm doesn’t actually increase the chances of conception in humans.
7. Some women orgasm during childbirth.
According to a 2013 study by French psychologist Thierry Postel into over 206,000 midwife-assisted births, 0.3 percent of mothers experienced orgasms during labor. Furthermore, researchers believe that this is likely an underestimate, because women who have experienced pleasure alongside the pain are likely too ashamed to admit it.
8. Orgasms can come from places other than your genitals
There are recorded cases of women achieving orgasm when brushing their teeth, stroking their eyebrows, or even just by thinking about it. Some paraplegics also report being able to achieve orgasm when the area directly above their injury is stimulated and some amputees have described feeling an orgasm in a phantom limb. (Check out this TED Talk from Mary Roach for more information about these and other ways people experience orgasms.)
9. Not everyone orgasms the same way.
As much as 80% of women struggle to orgasm from intercourse alone. Because the clitoris is the most sensitive part of a women’s anatomy, most women need clitoral stimulation alongside intercourse to achieve orgasm. Other women never orgasm during intercourse but do with oral and/or manual stimulation. Every woman is different and it depends on your body, how relaxed you are, if you can concentrate, and many other things.
10. Orgasms have their very own day.
Mark your calendars: August 8th is International Female Orgasm Day. Established by Brazilian Arimateio Dantas, the day seeks to raise awareness of female sexuality and to encourage women to be more open about discussing their sex lives.
The bottom line with the big O?
No matter how you do it, orgasms are healthy and natural. Unfortunately, many women are still embarrassed to talk about orgasms and any issues they may be having, whether it’s with their partner or their doctor. But it is perfectly normal to experience issues with sexual function: 43% of us will experience persistent and reoccurring challenges with sexual response or desire (called female sexual dysfunction by the medical community) at some point in our lives.
So don’t be self-conscious about asking your partner for what you need, and especially don’t be embarrassed about talking to your doctor about any issues you may be having. Be honest with yourself, with your doctor, or with your partner, and you can find your way to bigger, better and more frequent orgasms.