Read about the 5 stages in female sexual function beginning with Desire

Female Libido & Sexual Function

  • 5 Stages of Female Sexual Function
  1. Desire
  2. Excitement
  3. Plateau
  4. Orgasm
  5. Resolution
Picture - illustration of woman

The female libido is directly tied to sexual function, which relies on state of mind and well-being of the body. The nervous system, hormones, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, and the reproductive system all play a significant part in the sexual function. In the sexual function, there are five stages of arousal associated with physical and mental changes. They are desire, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution.

Stages of Female Sexual Function


Desire is the first stage that women experience. Desire stimulates sexual enthusiasm and activity. When responding sexually to a variety of stimuli (such as sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste), desire activates in our minds and bodies. These various stimuli can create a strong wanting for sexual stimulation. Of course, subject to one�s environment and upbringing, may impact the stimuli that sets off sexual desire or female libido, but desire still is the first stage that impacts the sexual function.


Excitement is the second stage. A person's physical response to stimuli during the desire phase defines the excitement stage, which can be achieved with various levels of mental or physical stimulation. Emotional changes can heighten the excitement stage by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and even respiration. During this stage the breasts tend to increase in size with the nipples becoming erect and as the vagina widens and elongates, the clitoris becomes more sensitive and increases in size. Also, the labia begins to swell and separate as the vagina lubricates itself and the uterus rises slightly. At this point, the uterine and cervical glands also secrete mucus to lubricate the vagina walls. As the blood flow increases a woman will have heightened sensitivity while the vaginal swelling and lubrication occurs.


Plateau is the third stage, which is the highest peak of sexual excitement before the next stage; orgasm. During full arousal, the plateau stage can be achieved when physical or mental stimulation persists. For women, this stage can be achieved, lost, and regained several times without the occurrence of orgasm. The physical changes such as heart rate and breathing rate continue to increase as blood pressure rises even more. The muscle tension increases as the clitoris extracts and the Bartholin's glands lubricate the vaginal wall. The areolae around the nipples become larger and the labia continues to swell. The uterus will then tip, positioning itself high in the abdomen as the lower vagina swells, narrows and tightens.


Orgasm is the fourth stage, which occurs at the highest peak of the plateau stage. During this stage, sexual tension has been building up throughout the body and is finally released. The body releases chemicals called endorphins, causing a sense of happiness or well-being. The intensity of an orgasm(s) varies from one sexual experience to another and it also varies among women. During the orgasm stage, a woman may feel intense spasms and even a loss of awareness. A woman may also experience subtle relaxation. Women do have the capability of having multiple orgasms, meaning that they can move immediately from orgasm back into the plateau stage and back to the orgasm stage again. During an orgasm, the heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure rate all reach their highest peak. There is also a loss of muscle control or spasms that involve coordinated contractions of the vaginal muscles and the abdominal muscles. When released with endorphins, the muscle spasms tend to cause intense pleasure. The vagina, uterus, anus, and other pelvic muscles also tend to contract anywhere between five to twelve times at 0.8-second intervals.


Resolution is after the orgasm stage. Before everything gets back to its pre-arousal state, the heart rate and blood pressure start to slow down below normal rate but then returns to its normal rate soon afterward. During the resolution stage, the blood flows away from the vagina and the blood vessels dilate to drain the pelvic tissues. The breasts and areolae shrink back to their normal size and the nipples lose their erection. The clitoris tilts back to its position prior to arousal and slightly shrinks. The labia also returns to its normal size and back to its normal position and the vagina relaxes while the cervix opens to help semen travel up into the uterus. The cervix closes approximately 20 - 30 minutes after orgasm and the uterus lowers back into the upper vagina region. During all of this, a woman feels a loss of muscle tension and an increase in relaxation and drowsiness.


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