You'll want to read this.
Fun fact: today is International Female Orgasm Day (yep, you read that right). Originally introduced in Brazil back in 2006, it now exists to encourage women to be more tuned in to their own sexuality and, in turn, pleasure. So, question: have you ever asked yourself, why do orgasms feel good?
It's a simple enough question, but the answer - not so much. Whether you got there with a partner or thanks to a helping hand from one of the best sex toys, it's a straight-up fact that some orgasms do just hit different to others. But why?
Lovehoney stats show that almost four out of ten couples (37%) share their orgasms at least half the time they have sex. But are there different types of orgasms?
Short answer: yes. We've spoken to Sarah Mulindwa, Lovehoney ambassador, presenter of Channel 4’s The Sex Clinic and NHS sexual health nurse, to get an explanation of the different types and answer all of your need-to-know questions. “When we have sex, what you feel physically sends signals through your nerves to the brain — which reacts by releasing chemicals that make you experience even more pleasure. That is why you get the phrase 'post-orgasm glow' to describe that feel-good mood you can experience after sex," she explains.
Keep reading for more info. Don't miss our guides to the best condoms, best lube, and best eco-friendly sex toys, or explainers on whether the perfect penis size actually exists, the most common sex dreams, and what to talk about on a first date, while you're here.
Why do orgasms feel good? Your guide
First thing's first - what actually is an orgasm?
Good question. According to Mulindwa, as a woman becomes aroused, blood flows to the clitoris, vagina, and nipples and creates a full-body sexual blush. Your heart rate and blood pressure will also increase, she shares.
At the point of orgasm, a series of rhythmic contractions occur in the uterus, vagina, and pelvic floor muscles. "The sexual tension caused by sex or masturbation releases certain chemicals, and muscles throughout the body may contract," she goes on.
Notice a feeling of warmth? That's pretty normal - this warm feeling usually emanates from the pelvis and spreads throughout the entire body, shares Mulindwa.
Are there different types of orgasms?
Oh yes. According to the nurse, orgasms can range in intensity, differ from different sex positions, and can feel different from person to person.
“The female orgasm isn't just an emotional and psychological response, but a physiological one, too," she shares. That means that orgasms are very much a physical thing, and will vary every time.
Notice your orgasms change in intensity from month to month? That's normal, too. It can vary because of a range of factors, including connection with your partner, sexual excitement, and more. Recently learned how to talk about a fetish and trying out bondage for beginners, pegging or watching ethical porn? That might just affect it. Similarly, if you're re-learning how to be intimate with your partner, it could be more intense and special.
What are the most common types of female orgasm?
"Many female orgasms occur as the direct result of clitoral stimulation - this is the most common type of orgasm for women," shares Mulinwa.
Vagina burning after sex? This might be why - and don't hesitate to see a doctor, if you're worried.
So, why do orgasms feel good?
When you have an orgasm, your brain releases oxytocin, explains the nurse. "This is a "feel-good" hormone responsible for helping you to bond with others - it partly answers why orgasms can feel so amazing and make you feel closer to the person you've shared them with," she shares.
Similarly, because orgasms make you feel good, some people use partnered sex or masturbation techniques as a means of relieving chronic stress symptoms. "Oxytocin enables relaxation and thus climaxing can make it easier for you to wind down after a busy day," she continues.
A 2016 study by neuroscientist Adam Safron published in the Socioaffect Neurosci Psychol. journal outlined how rhythmic stimulation alters your brain activity during the climax, which further explains why orgasms can feel so good.
In short, sexual stimulation focuses our neurons to the point that we are sent into a trance. This trance, in turn, allows us to concentrate solely on the pleasurable sensation you are experiencing. Talk about intense.
When in this trance, he shares that you lose all sense of self-awareness and consciousness and are able to block out all other noises, feelings, and smells around you.
For his research, Dr. Safron reviewed related studies and literature that have been compiled over the years and created a model which shows how rhythmic sex actively influences brain rhythms.
The stimulation of particular nerves in a particular way and at a particular speed in a repetitive motion forces our neurons to focus on the activity and synchronise their own activity to it. So they basically join in on the fun, as it were.
As the stimulation carries out, this joint up synchronisation spreads throughout the brain and allows it to focus only on the sensation your body is experiencing. This is known as neural entertainment - which seems like a rather fitting name if you ask us.
"Before this paper, we knew what lit up in the brain when people had orgasms, and we knew a lot about the hormonal and neurochemical factors in non-human animals, but we didn't really know why sex and orgasm feel the way they do," says Dr. Safron.
"Set the mood, you'll have a better chance of repeatedly peaking if you have your ideal sexy set-up: lighting, location, music, scents, toys, visual inspiration – whatever usually gets you in the zone. Once you're feeling sexy, move on to the body and genital stimulation. Take it slowly and try delaying orgasm until you can't hold out anymore. And once you eventually finish, take some rest and repeat it all!"
5 benefits of having regular orgasms
1. It can improve your mental health
Now you know the answer to the age-old question, why do orgasms feel good? It's time to learn why they're good for you, too. Fun fact: the brain manufactures and releases substances called neurotransmitters and neuropeptides during sexual stimulation and orgasm.
"These substances are wonderful for your overall physical and emotional wellbeing," explains Mulindwa.
According to the expert, they can:
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep
- Enhance immunity
- Boost mood
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2. It can boost body image
Ever wondered how body image and sexual health are intertwined? Short answer: way more than you'd think...
“Our body image can affect our mental health, which in turn has a strong influence on how we behave towards ourselves as well as towards others," explains Mulindwa.
She reckons that better orgasms can inspire a positive self-image and self love, which in turn could make your sex life generally more pleasurable and you better at functioning sexually, too.
3. It can actually be good for your skin
Or so says the nurse. "As mentioned above, during sex, there’s an increase in the rate of blood flowing through your body, meaning more of those blood cells carrying oxygen can reach your face," she explains.
So, when your blood vessels start to dilate, you may get that rosy flushed look, she shares. "You may experience your increased amount of oxygen stimulating collagen production - say hello to collagen, and goodbye to lines and wrinkles," she goes on.
4. You'll feel relaxed
As anybody who's ever been - well, left totally speechless after a particularly powerful orgasm can attest, they have some seriously sedating powers.
"That’s because climaxing triggers surges of prolactin, a powerful relaxant hormone, and combined with the endorphins released during sex, can leave you feeling sleepy," shares Mulindwa.
Ever heard of vaginal massage? That too can lead to serious relaxation and pleasure both mentally and, ahem, down there...
5. You'll keep things healthy down there
Last but by no means least, when you have an orgasm, blood and nutrients rush to your vagina, which helps keep things down there in tiptop shape, explains the nurse. Vaginal care, sorted.
That's compared to those who have sex less than once a week or have sex more irregularly.
Keen to celebrate International Female Orgasm Day but left it a bit too late to pick up a toy (Read a sex experts review of the LELO Enigma, here). Fun fact: Zapp the 24/7 convenience delivery app has launched a ‘Self-Love Store’ offering rapid delivery of vibrators, lube, and other self-love treats such as candles, Moët & Chandon, Little Moons, and more. To shop the range, download the Zapp app on iOS or Android and head straight to the ‘Self-Love Store’ in the app.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, eight-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She regularly hosts panels and presents for things like the MC Sustainability Awards, has an Optimum Nutrition qualification, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw, with health page views up 98% year on year, too. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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