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What effect does sexual arousal have on a woman’s genitals?

When a woman is sexually aroused, a variety of changes take place in her genitals and elsewhere on her body. Many women aren’t aware of these changes, but understanding them can help make sex a more enjoyable experience, by giving women and their partners a better sense of what to expect, and alerting a woman to changes in her sexual response.

During arousal, blood flow to the genitals increases. The increased blood flow helps to spur the production of vaginal lubrication, and causes swelling in the clitoris, labia minora, labia majora, and vagina. How much lubrication a woman produces varies widely and also from one sexual encounter to the next, since stress, hormonal fluctuations and even common medications like antihistamines all can affect it. The amount of vaginal lubrication that a woman produces may also vary throughout her menstrual cycle, as well as with age.

As arousal continues, the labia minora and majora may swell in size and deepen their natural color. The vagina expands and lengthens, too, as the uterus is pulled upward into the body, changing the position of the cervix. As arousal continues, the vaginal opening tightens and the clitoris retracts underneath the clitoral hood, protecting the nerve-rich clitoris from direct stimulation, which may feel uncomfortable. Feelings of tingling, throbbing, and fullness may be felt throughout the pelvic area.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.