Inspiration for this blog came while watching an episode of Goop Lab on Netflix, aptly titled “The Pleasure is Ours” about the many health benefits of an orgasm. In this episode infamous feminist, Betty Dodson and actress Gwyneth Paltrow showcase the many health benefits of an orgasm while also touching on important topics like body image and a helpful female anatomy lesson.
It got me thinking about the topic of female orgasms and how this fantastic spark that we all possess holds some powerful healing properties. Betty Dodson herself or the God Mother of Masturbation as she’s been called is 90 years old, a living example of the power of female sexuality that you wouldn’t want to argue with.
At first glance her quick wit and sturdy demeanour made me think she was 30 years younger, but a google search confirmed her age and secured my faith that I will literally drink whatever Kool-Aid she passes my way. Dodson passionately implores women to connect with their sexuality and explains there are many benefits of an orgasm that can improve fertility, reduce anxiety, offer pain relief and create stronger bonding for you and your partner. Dodson may be one of the first female orgasm aficionados, but this topic has been up for discussion plenty among circles of Women’s Health practitioners. So much so, it wasn’t hard to find quality information as I began my research. I’ve summarized the main benefits below.
Oxytocin “The Love Hormone”
Arguably the most noted hormone when it comes to orgasms. This is the same hormone that is released during a hug, childbirth and is the main hormone involved in social bonding. This magical hormone reduces oxidative stress, soothes anxiety, blocks against excess cortisol and has some noticeable anti-aging effects. If Betty Dodson is any indication, an orgasm has all the anti-aging properties that your expensive night cream doesn’t! It’s one of the reasons why a woman can give birth and still go back for more. The rush of oxytocin delivered during birth helps a woman cope with pain and bond with her baby.
Blood Flow to the Pelvis
In our modern world, many of us are sedentary for long hours, working at desks and driving long distances. We spend a lot of time on our butts, which restricts circulation to the pelvic floor. This can stagnate the flow of blood to the pelvis and may lead to painful periods, difficulty achieving orgasm and infections like bacterial vaginosis and thrush. Orgasms increase circulation to the pelvic floor area and by doing so help hormones and nutrients get to where they need to go. If you spend much of your day sitting, get up and move around every 30 min. Do a little dance, do a little yoga, go for a walk or shimmy on the spot.
Orgasms can lessen pain during menstruation and improve the flow of menstrual blood by increasing circulation to the pelvis. They also flood your system with oxytocin and other endorphins that can help with pain relief. There have also been studies to show more frequent orgasms can increase progesterone production, eliminating PMS symptoms and boosting fertility. It’s important to note that penetrative sex does not always equal orgasm for many women, so opting for clitoral stimulation, especially during your period is the way to go!
It’s hard not to talk about oxytocin when discussing the benefits of an orgasm on overall health! By blocking the negative effects of excess cortisol oxytocin can help to increase progesterone production. For gals with a short luteal phase (second half of the cycle after ovulation), low progesterone is often the culprit and can affect implantation of an embryo. Increased circulation to the pelvis is also beneficial in terms of fertility as it helps hormones get where they need to go.
The topic of sex comes up a lot in my day to day practice as an Acupuncturist. Having a special interest in women’s health and fertility, most of the time it’s in the form of advising a patient when is the best time to have sex to make a baby, but this discussion often leads to concerns like low libido and discomfort during sex. I encourage this conversation and I’m always open for discussion on this topic as it’s often overlooked by many health professionals. For some women, it’s difficult to achieve orgasm, or they may not feel interested in having one at all. Both are signs there could be an underlying hormonal imbalance. No doubt, this topic comes with many nuances stemming from trauma to stress. Let’s explore some reasons why your sexual energy may be low.
Stress and Trauma
Anything that makes your body think it’s unsafe can send you in to “fight or flight” mode. When your body thinks it needs to preserve itself it can be at the expense of your libido and create a knock-on effect that lowers progesterone levels making it difficult to achieve an orgasm, or even be interested in sex at all. Hormones secreted by your adrenal glands in response to chronic stress, epinephrine and norepinephrine, can become a detriment to your adrenal health when released in high amounts leading to hormone imbalances down the track.
Hormonal Birth Control
In Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book, Beyond the Pill she explains that the oral contraceptive pill increases proteins that bind to testosterone so your cells can’t use it. With less testosterone in your system, your libido suffers. Dr. Brighten also says, the birth control pill shrinks the size of your clitoris by 50%! This is significant because only 18% of women can orgasm through penetrative sex, the majority achieving orgasm by clitoral stimulation only. Hormonal birth control shuts down your hormones and takes over with synthetic ones that are not as good as the real deal, leading to things like vaginal dryness and low mood. AKA libido killers.
Perimenopause begins the roller coaster that is declining estrogen and progesterone with a bonus of estrogen dominance. One reason estrogen dominance occurs is because of the deficit of progesterone to even it out later in the menstrual cycle. This can lead to irritability, fluid, cramping, heavy periods and weight gain. That’s enough to cause any woman to lose her mojo and as I mentioned earlier, decline in progesterone can make it difficult to achieve orgasm. There is also more stress on the adrenal glands during this transition, which can drain DHEA – A precursor to your sex-hormones produced by your adrenal glands. As a woman transitions into menopause a further decline of estriol (our main estrogen) can lead to vaginal dryness and progesterone follows suit. These transitions very much depend on your hormonal and adrenal health well before you hit perimenopause. Slowing down, ensuring you’re getting enough rest, making conscious healthy choices with your diet and lifestyle, and addressing hormonal imbalances as they arise will help to make your transition much smoother.
Post-baby hormones are everywhere, and time is needed to recover from childbirth. Every woman is different, and each will require a different amount of time to recover, but 6-weeks minimum is recommended plus a check-up with your doctor to ensure healing is complete. However, it may take longer before a woman’s hormones are balanced enough to be interested in having an orgasm. Many variables play a part in this, like health before and during pregnancy which relies on a complex interplay of hormones, minerals and nutrients. Complications like post-natal depression can be the result of these variables being deficient or imbalanced. It’s so important to be especially kind and patient with yourself during this time as your body has just gone through so much! Checking in with your midwife, doula, doctor and/or OB can be helpful to determine if there is anything going on that needs to be addressed. Support and understanding from your partner is paramount, and as I mentioned earlier a simple embrace from your loved one will help with healing and keeps your bond strong, along with snuggling your brand-new babe!
Don’t Know How
This is all too common! We certainly don’t learn how to masturbate in sex-ed, so often this is left to self-exploration, discussion amongst friends or perhaps, pornography. Even still, for most women no one explains how to find your clitoris and what to do with it when you do find it. New York in the 70’s is when Betty Dodson paves the way by facilitating a safe place for sexual exploration. While her famed orgies may have been quite avant-garde, even for today, she also created a safe place for women to discover themselves. To this day she holds workshops at her home in NY. This kind of sexual healing and self-exploration is more common these days, with sex therapists and psychologists specialising in these areas.
The topic of female sexuality is vast and peppered with many nuances. I could honestly read and write about it endlessly. Who knows, I just might! There are many things I would like to cover further in other blogs as each little section is just a snippet of information about sub-topics I could dive deep into. I hope it’s piqued your interest and made you hungry for more because I think our sexuality is a sign of overall health.
Perhaps this topic has made you want to explore and address some of your own health concerns. If that’s the case, then I recommend seeking advice from a health practitioner that has thorough knowledge of female hormones. You may also feel the need to seek advice from a sex therapist or psychologist, both of which will be incredibly insightful and help you on your healing path. If this post has sparked conversation with your partner or inspired you to spice things up in the bedroom, awesome! Whatever the result, I hope you found this blog to be insightful and helpful in some way.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future posts on this topic, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Andrea Murphy works on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2pm to 8pm and a Saturday from 9am-2pm.
138 Tanti Avenue, Mornington, VIC
03 5973 6886
Art by https://www.instagram.com/cosmiccollage/