As far as scientists can tell, we are one of the few female species that experience some form of orgasm. Why do women orgasm? No one knows. Maybe the spasms help move sperm through the reproductive tract; maybe it helps bond women more closely to their partners. But as any woman who has ever had an orgasm can tell you: Who cares?
The point is that an orgasm is sheer pleasure. And what modern woman couldn’t use a bit more pleasure in her life?
Beyond the bliss, there appear to be some unexpected health benefits to orgasm thanks to the release of the oxytocin and endorphins it triggers. These feel-good hormones contribute to relaxation, warmth and closeness, as well as helping reduce stress and fight pain and depression.
The problem comes when orgasm becomes the be all and end all of sex; when “getting there” becomes the goal rather than the bonus to an already pleasurable event.
Figures vary in terms of how many women are unable to reach orgasm on a regular basis. One study from the father of sexual research, Alfred Kinsey, found that one in four women are unable to reach orgasm during their first year of marriage, while up to 47 percent of women married 20 years are nearly always orgasmic (keep in mind this study was done in the early 1960s when sex meant marriage). Kinsey’s research suggested that, luckily, the majority of women (approximately 90 percent) are able to experience orgasm by some method at some point in their lives.
Other surveys and studies, including a Redbook magazine survey of 100,000 women, concluded that between 53 and 63 percent of women reach orgasm all or most of the time, although not necessarily through intercourse. A 2011 study published in Hormones and Behavior shows that only 8 percent of women regularly have unassisted orgasms during vaginal intercourse; the number rises with external clitoral stimulation.
After menopause, the same drop in estrogen responsible for vaginal changes can affect your ability to orgasm because anything that affects the nerves or blood supply to the clitoris can affect the ability to orgasm. If this sounds like you, talk to your health care professional about what could improve vaginal lubrication, blood flow and sensation.
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