Sex is good for our mental and physical health. It helps lower blood pressure and heart rate and even boosts our immune system. Besides, it puts us in a good mood.
Historically and culturally, sex is one of the most thought-of, talked-and-joked-about topics. Sooner or later, we all come to learn the mechanics of it. However, it will take a whole journey of self-discovery to understand all the implications sex has on our minds and body.
What Exactly Happens to Your Body While You are Having Sex? 11 Facts
Scientists of the human body have formulated a sexual response cycle that explains exactly what happens to your body while you are having sex and after that. Let’s look into that, shall we?
1. The Desire Stage
The first stage in the sexual response cycle is the Desire phase, or Libido. Many things happen in this stage, both in men and women. Heart rates and breathing accelerate, skin flushes, and your body releases more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a natural compound that makes blood vessels expand and triggers the release of happy hormones.
For women, blood rushes to various body parts, such as the vagina, clitoris, labia minora, cervix, and nipples. The clitoris and nipples may become erect, while the vaginal lips swell from the extra blood flow.
This extra blood flow also helps increase vaginal lubrication while the muscles around the opening of the vagina tighten. Then, the tenting phenomenon happens, where the vagina dilates to make it easier for a penis to fit in. Specialists believe that tenting also has a suctioning effect to help direct sperm to the cervix, given human biology’s purpose of procreating.
Studies show that men can also get hot flushes on the abdomen or neck. The blood flow to the penis increases, the testicles swell as they produce a lubricating liquid. Most of the body muscles tighten as the sexual tension builds up.
The happy hormones begin their journey through your body. Oxytocin and dopamine make us feel more connected with our partners and activate the reward centers in our brains. In fact, the release of oxytocin during intercourse is the reason why sex is so beneficial for all of us.
2. The Arousal Stage
This is the next phase in the sexual response cycle, also known as the plateau phase. Everything that we’ve described in the first stage starts to intensify. Heart rates and blood pressure are high; breathing is accelerated.
Scientists have also discovered an increased neurological activity involving the amygdala at this stage.
While further neurological research is needed on the matter, one thing is sure. In this arousal stage, everything fades into the background for both the woman and the man.
The woman’s vagina swells and turns purple while the muscles contract, even more, leading to spasms. The clitoris becomes exceptionally sensitive to the point that it’s almost painful, so it will retract slightly.
In men, the muscles responsible for urine control start to tighten even more to prevent any urine and semen mix.
The muscles at the base of the penis start to contract to trigger the secretion of pre-seminal fluid. The testicles retract up in the scrotum. Muscle spasms might begin to build up.
3. The Orgasm
Unfortunately, you might not hit the big O all the time. According to a 2018 study, up to 40% of women talked about their difficulty in reaching orgasm.
There are many reasons why a person cannot reach orgasm, from anxiety to trauma, stress or medical issues. However, sex can still be great, even without an orgasm.
When you do orgasm, everything goes through the roof. Your muscles convulse, your whole body is shaking and producing oxytocin like crazy.
Women usually have uterine and vaginal contractions.
Men will experience rhythmic contractions at the base of the penis, as the muscles are tightening with the goal of releasing semen in an ejaculation. Then everything calms down, and our body rewards us with a good share of dopamine.
4. Hormones and Neurotransmitters during Sex
30 active parts of the brain are involved in orgasm, including the amygdala (the memory and emotions center) and the hypothalamus (the subconsciousness).
The anterior cingulate cortex, which is responsible for our impulses and empathy, and the nucleus accumbens, mediating our emotional processes, are also involved in our orgasms, as numerous MRI scans have proved.
So, it is indeed a big O, since our brain is so involved in it. Sex does release lots of endorphins, which help lower stress and pain.
Moreover, several studies have suggested that during vaginal stimulation, the pain sensitivity diminishes.
5. The Resolution stage
After orgasm, men go into a refractory period. They need some time to rest before going at it again. Women don’t have a refractory period, so they can have multiple orgasms, one after another.
In the resolution stage, your muscles relax, the heart rate and breathing come back to normal. You feel a bit tired, but it’s a very pleasant type of fatigue.
6. Parts of our Brain Shuts Down During Sex
Several neuropsychology studies have shown that multiple brain areas are active before, during, and after orgasm. Here’s what we know so far involving brain chemicals and sex.
First of all, the limbic system, responsible for our physical drives and emotional processing, is highly active during sex. At the same time, other parts of our cerebral cortex that are in charge of our reasoning turn off. Therefore, scientists claim sex is driven more by our instincts and feelings than our cognition.
Clinical psychologists have also noticed that the parts of our brain that manage awareness and judgments are also pretty much inactive during sex. So, love is indeed blind. In fact, some studies claim that this disinhibition helps women orgasm.
7. Oh, Dopamine!
Before, during, and after sex, our brains release a lot of neurochemicals. Dopamine is one of them.
Dopamine is a chemical messenger involved in most of our neurological and physiological processes, such as blood flow, digestion, mood and emotions, motor control, sleep, stress response, pleasure, reward-seeking, etc.
Yes, pleasure! Dopamine gets the most credit for its feel-good properties. Our brain releases it when it’s expecting a reward or specific desired action is about to happen.
During orgasm, our body releases a lot of dopamine, putting us in that feel-good mood. Amongst other things, dopamine helps our body recognize all the rewards that make us feel good, from food to sex.
8. Oh, Oxytocin!
Oxytocin is another type of feel-good hormone that our body releases in our hypothalamus during orgasm.
Interestingly, oxytocin is also released during breastfeeding, as it’s meant to promote feelings of attachment, affection, and love towards one another.
9. Your brain also releases vasopressin
This is another naturally occurring hormone that helps control our body’s internal temperature, blood pressure, and kidney function. Vasopressin also helps maintain our cellular function.
Our brain also releases this hormone during sex, especially for men. Vasopressin interacts with the male sex hormone testosterone. Given that men do tend to get sleepy after sex and that vasopressin promotes drowsiness, you might blame it on this hormone for your man’s fatigue.
10. The release of serotonin
Serotonin is another chemical messenger that has excellent effects on our mood. It helps us sleep better, and it is usually linked to feeling good and living long, prosperous lives. When we don’t get enough serotonin, we might feel sad or even depressed.
Research has shown that serotonin levels rise during sex, and it is one of the main reasons why we get that good feeling after orgasm. Moreover, serotonin helps reduce stress and improve our memory functions.
So, have more sex to improve your serotonin levels and live a happier, stress-free life! Isn’t that the dream?
11. You are less sensitive to pain
All these chemicals being released during sex make your body less sensitive to pain. All these endorphins, vasopressin, and oxytocin are basically the body’s natural painkillers.
This is why certain activities like hair pulling, nipple pinching, smacking, or whatever else you have in mind (ahem) are quite pleasurable during sex.
Many researchers have confirmed that orgasms can raise your pain tolerance or even block pain altogether. Many women have reported that genital stimulation reduces menstrual cramps or even headaches.
So, yes, sex is a natural remedy that helps our bodies and minds. We get a lot of physical and mental health benefits from it, and it makes us feel good. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Sex will help boost your mood, keep your heart healthy, and relieve your body of stress and anxiety. You are literally glowing after sex. So, enjoy it! Stop feeling guilty for your own orgasms or listening to what other people are talking about. Find the person that makes you happy and has lots of sex together. It will make you both feel better and lead a healthy and enjoyable life.
Sex is essential for a relationship to work. Love needs the intimacy and closeness that sex provides. Don’t be afraid to discuss sex and all the intimate things you like with your partner. Talk about it and enjoy!