During this stage, your body undergoes a variety of visible changes. “Increased blood pressure and flow along with your body releasing more nitric oxide can cause a woman’s vagina to change shades of color or swell,” says Ramos. “Breasts and other sensitive areas become tender and aroused, and it’s also why heart racing and muscle tension occurs.”
During this stage, the penis may become erect and the testes elevate as the scrotum contracts, she adds. And don’t forget about that sex flush, which is a very real thing—and a result of blood flowing to the surface of the skin.
Here, the signs of excitement are even more visible according to Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast.
The clitoral glans may retract beneath its hood. In addition, the outer third of the vagina may swell, and the uterus may continue to tilt upward, she explains. Muscular tension, heart rate, breathing and blood pressure continue to increase. The testicles may elevate closer to the body, and muscles may begin to spasm.
Though the heart is often thought to represent matters of love and sex, O’Reilly says the heart’s involvement in sexual processes is minimal in comparison to that of the brain and the nervous system.
“The pituitary gland lights up. The nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental areas are activated. The hypothalamus goes into overdrive. And the center of reasoning and behavior shuts down entirely as you spiral into the euphoria of sexual pleasure,” she explains. “All this activity may sound like sensory overload, but this is actually your brain… on sex.”
Post-climax, Ramos says all the hormones and neurotransmitters will begin to resolve, and your body will return to its normal state, including swelled and erect body parts as well as body parts that might have changed in color.
While you might experience these sensations during sex, O’Reilly points out, “It’s very important to note that these .s are not universal and the process is not linear. For example, you may not orgasm every time you have sex, and that’s OK.”
She adds, “I really want to emphasize that you don’t have to experience all of these bodily responses to enjoy sex.” But if you do, at least now you know what’s going on.