Yesterday we asked about sex and the female orgasm, chemically speaking: Though we know what happens physically to women during orgasm (muscle contractions, increased heart rate, and movement of the uterus and vagina), the real feeling of climax comes from a number of chemical reactions in our bodies.
So what’s the science behind the big “O”? Not surprisingly, there are a lot of chemicals involved in your sexual response. Here are some of the major players:
- Oxytocin β Often called the “hormone of love” and the “cuddle hormone,” oxytocin is a hormone that acts primarily as a neurotransmitter in the brain. It’s released after childbirth, stimulation of the nipples, and sexual arousal, and studies link it to maternal behaviors and pair bonding.
- Endorphins β This is the happy hormone! Endorphins induce a feeling of general well-being, and can even act as analgesics (the body produces them to counter extreme stress and pain). Their production in the pituitary gland is stimulated by exercise, excitement, pain, eating spicy foods, and orgasm, of course.
- Vasopressin β Like oxytocin, studies have linked vasopressin to pair-bonding behaviors and romance. It also has the physical effects of increasing blood pressure and water retention.
- Dopamine -β This common neurotransmitter has several effects on the brain, and is associated with excitement, motivation, and sleep patterns.
The only hormone mentioned in our quiz that isn’t directly correlated with sex is the thyroid-stimulating hormone.