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Nicole Audrey Spector

Nicole Audrey Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, The New Yorker and more. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleSpector

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The Science Behind Orgasms: What’s Going On When You’re Getting It On

The Science Behind Orgasms: What’s Going On When You’re Getting It On

Orgasms feel great, but what actually happens in your body when you have one?

Sexual Health

Medically reviewed by Dr. Heather Bartos

Designed by Elizabeth Gething

Ah, the ever-elusive female orgasm. We know it feels great, but why? How exactly do orgasms in the female body work? What’s the science behind them? 

We talked to OB-GYN Dr. Heather Bartos to break down the stages of this toe-curling experience. 

  1. Excitement: During excitement, your vagina lengthens and vaginal cells start to lubricate the vagina. The clitoris expands and can even extrude out of the labia. Levels of certain hormones, like the pleasure hormone dopamine, start to increase, your pupils start to dilate, and your skin can appear blushed or flushed.

  1. The Plateau: Your heart rate and blood pressure increase and the lower part of your vagina swells even more. Now think of horny teenagers from the movies — it would be hard to stop at this point even if you wanted to. 

  1. The Actual Orgasm: The orgasm itself is about 60 seconds of rhythmic contractions of the uterus, vagina and clitoris and this sends a huge whoosh of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin from the brain through the body.These movements are involuntary and some women even report that their eyes roll in the back of the head or they forcefully exhale and find a great release of stress.

  1. Post-Orgasm: Finally, there is the post-orgasm moment. For women, this can be very fast, a few minutes even. While you’re in this state, your vital signs normalize again — your breathing slows and your heart rate lowers — and you experience a wave of relief and satisfaction. Then, the whole process can start over again.

Paying attention to the build up to the orgasm can make the orgasm itself all the more mind-blowing. But try not to focus on the orgasm too much, or you might miss the wonderful journey leading up to it — which can be just as exciting.


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