You know the Hippocratic Oath? I took it back in 1994.
Do No Harm. Got it.
Hippocrates got it, too – and he wanted you to get some.
Turns out that during Hippocrates’ time and right up until the Freudian era (the 1930s), doctors prescribed orgasm as a treatment for women with various “ailments” such as hysteria (a convenient catch-all diagnosis applied to women who couldn’t or wouldn’t fit themselves into socially-prescribed categories and conventions).
After Freud, treatment for hysteria shifted from orgasm to psychotherapy.
But before Freud’s time, orgasm – or “medical massage” – was regularly prescribed by doctors. When I first learned about it as a young medical student, I thought that recommending “medical massage” a.k.a. “getting off” sounded pervy and rife with complex therapeutic boundaries…not to mention risky medicolegal issues. But then I immersed myself in the literature of orgasm and its BFF, oxytocin, and thought, “Hmmm, maybe those pervs were onto something!”
Let me explain.
- As recently demonstrated at the University of Michigan, orgasm increases estrogen.
- Orgasm also releases oxytocin which in turn lowers cortisol, the main stress hormone chronically elevated in many women in the workforce (including me).
- Oxytocin is triggered by orgasm and in addition to lowering cortisol, it’s just good stuff all on its own. Higher levels of oxytocin makes us happy. Conversely, low oxytocin is linked to post-partum depression and lower levels of thyroid hormone. Oxytocin is positively linked to a tighter parent-child bond.
- Sexy thoughts raise testosterone in women.
Put another way, orgasm helps your holy trinity of estrogen, cortisol and thyroid stay in their sweet spot, able to serve you like Charlie’s Angels (link here for my post on this topic).
But, wait, there’s more!
- Orgasm cuts pain by half without changing sensitivity.
- Orgasm enhances fertility by increasing negative pressure inside the uterus – when oxytocin is released after orgasm, uterine contractions cause “insuck” of semen at the cervix. (Note – this is a good thing if you want to get pregnant. If you don’t want to get pregnant, have your orgasm before your male partner.)
- Oxytocin may increase bone density and low levels are associated with osteoporosis. (Doesn’t orgasm sound like a better, side-effect-free way to keep your bones strong than Sally Fields’ Boniva?)
So if you want to get balanced – and stay balanced – well, you should try to get off. Doctor’s orders.
But it’s not just clitoral orgasm that counts. The release isn’t everything – it’s not even the whole story. (Indeed that whole approach to orgasm assumes that women climax like men.)
We now know that orgasm in both women (and men!) is broader than the simply the culmination of clonic (repetitive) contractions of the pelvic floor and smooth muscles of the clitoris.
We also know that oxytocin is maximally released one minute after those lovely clitoral contractions…AND that oxytocin levels can be increased simply by physical stimulation of the clitoris, vagina, cervix, and breasts.
The pervs of old were right: orgasm, in all its forms, can cure what ails you. Doesn’t orgasm sound better than risky hormone replacement therapy? No scary side effects like breast cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Best. Hormone. Treatment. EVER.