ORIGINAL RESEARCH—WOMEN’S SEXUAL HEALTH: Physiological Changes in Female Genital Sensation During Sexual Stimulation


Ilan Gruenwald, MD, Rambam Medical Center—Neuro-urology, Haaliya Street, Haifa, Israel, 9602. Tel: 0097248542819; Fax: 009728542883; E-mail: ilgr@netvision.net.il; i_gruenwald@rambam.health.gov.il


Introduction.  A normal sexual response in the female depends on the integrity of afferent sensory input from the genital region. So far genital sensation has been investigated only during a non-excitatory state, and the sensory physiological changes, which occur during the sexual cycle in this region, are still obscured.

Aim.  To investigate the sensory status of the female genital region during sexual arousal and orgasm.

Main Outcome Measures.  Genital sensory thresholds measured by Quantitative Sensory Testing (vibratory and thermal) were compared in a non-excitatory vs. excitatory state in normal sexually functioning females.

Methods.  Eleven healthy female volunteers were recruited and attended three separate visits. During each session only one anatomical site, either clitoris or vagina was tested for either vibratory or thermal stimuli. A psychophysical method of limits was employed for threshold determination of warm or vibratory stimuli. In each session, all women were tested at baseline, immediately after arousal, after orgasm and three more measurements – 5, 10, and 20 minutes during the recovery state.

Results.  A significant decrease in clitoral vibratory sensation threshold was observed between the baseline and the arousal phases (P = 0.003). Comparison of vibratory sensation between baseline and following orgasm at the clitoral and vaginal region showed a significant difference (P < 0.001) for both regions. These changes were not significant for thermal threshold sensation at the clitoral region (P = 0.6).

Conclusions.  This is the first time that genital sensation has been measured during the excitatory phase of the female sexual cycle. This normative data may serve as a baseline for further investigations of the sensory input of the genital organs during intercourse in pathological states. Gruenwald I, Lowenstein L, Gartman I, and Vardi Y. Physiological changes in female genital sensation during sexual stimulation. J Sex Med 2007;4:390–394.