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Despite being a miraculous process of Nature that prepares women to be mothers, the menstrual cycle has suffered such regression for centuries that, in the middle of this room, if we asked how to summarize it in a few words, many would respond, "blood, sweat, and tears." But not all is lost; Fortunately, more and more women are rebelling against labels recognizing that, in addition to bleeding, suffering pain and enduring several different emotions, we sometimes feel great sexual desire. And why does this happen? This article will explain the main reasons that influence the generality of menstrual cycles.
Hormones and female sexual desire
Hormones are substances secreted by specialized cells that circulate through the blood to organs and tissues, acting as "chemical messengers" in the body in processes related to metabolism, growth and development, and reproduction. Female sex hormones, specifically, prepare our reproductive system for the reception of sperm and the implantation of the fertilized ovum, and affect our mood, desire and sexual response, especially estrogens and progesterone; although some studies also point to androgen hormones such as testosterone.
Estrogens are produced mainly by the ovaries and the placenta during pregnancy. The most relevant are estrone and estradiol, the former having the function of preparing ovulation and the latter, regulating the menstrual cycle. Estrogens also influence our libido, as well as our emotional behavior, as they are linked to the neurotransmitters "of happiness" that we will see later, the sexual desire, optimism, feelings of well-being and fulfillment being greater the greater their presence. in the body.
This sex hormone, which, like estrogens, is produced mainly by the ovaries (and the placenta during pregnancy), is intimately involved in pregnancy, embryogenesis and, of course, the menstrual cycle. The activity of progesterone increases in the second week of this (pre-ovulatory phase), to prepare the body for a hypothetical pregnancy, contributing to the creation and thickening of the endometrium, that is, the mucosa that lines the interior of the uterus to house the fertilized egg and that will be expelled through menstruation in the event that a pregnancy has not occurred. In addition, progesterone increases the size of the breasts in the days before the rule, affects the mood producing a certain depressive effect in the Premenstrual Syndrome and reduces the levels of libido to their minimum.
Androgens are a group of markedly male sex hormones (testosterone, androsterone and androstenedione), which also influence the reproductive development of women. Circumscribing ourselves to this, testosterone, produced mainly by the ovaries, influences both the cycle and the libido, although there is no scientific consensus as to whether this influence on female sexual desire is high or merely anecdotal. Generally, the highest levels occur around the middle of the menstrual cycle, just before ovulation, the time when the peak of sexual desire reaches its maximums, which is why supporters of the first theory point to this androgen as one of its cause.
Neurotransmitters and female sexual desire
Neurotransmitters are biomolecules whose main function is to transmit information from one neuron to another, to a muscle cell or to a gland, through the synapse (the space that separates them), making it a key chemical when transferring nerve stimuli. Like hormones, with some of which they are closely related, neurotransmitters play an important role in female desire, especially endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine.
Endorphins are involved in many processes, including inhibiting physical and emotional pain (acting as a kind of pain reliever), strengthening the immune system, and improving attention and memory, although they are best known for their power to provoke, on a physical and mental level, feelings of pleasure, well-being, calm and happiness. They are also known as endogenous opiates because when they are released in the body, it perceives it as a kind of reward, prompting us to repeat the behavior that generated their release, something similar to what happens when some drugs such as heroin or morphine are consumed. Obviously, its decline and / or absence causes the opposite effect: unhappiness, anxiety, difficulty to cope with trauma ... which can facilitate the consumption and addiction of substances that simulate their effect. Regarding its relationship with the menstrual cycle and sexuality, various studies suggest that endorphins increase libido, enhance sexual relations and facilitate the creation of romantic bonds between lovers, especially in the days before ovulation.
Like endorphins, this neurotransmitter helps regulate different functions, including mood, libido and sexual desire. Its influence on the first is so great that when its levels are high it produces states of happiness and euphoria similar to the highs caused by drugs such as ecstasy or LSD and when they are low, it can cause depression, anxiety and disorders such as obsessive- compulsive. These levels vary naturally during the cycle, decreasing significantly in the premenstrual phase, and can cause episodes of anxiety, sadness, irritability, insomnia and depression, typical of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
This molecule acts as a hormone and as a neurotransmitter. As a molecule, it is of great importance in the reproductive process, specifically in childbirth and lactation; and as a neurotransmitter, it is closely related to emotions such as altruism, generosity, compassion, empathy and trust. And not only with these, oxytocin is colloquially called "the hormone of love" for its role in strengthening affective relationships and establishing love ties, especially in the stage of infatuation. When we fall in love, the brain secretes large amounts of oxytocin, causing us to feel such pleasure when being with the other person that it can become as addictive as alcohol. And if we talk about pleasure, this molecule takes the gold medal, since the body releases it in large quantities during sex and, especially, during orgasm; Although you do not have to enjoy one during the menstrual cycle for it to appear, it already does it alone hand in hand with estrogens and the rest of the neurotransmitters of happiness, especially in the pre-ovulatory phase.
Dopamine, which also acts as a hormone and neurotransmitter, is involved in functions such as movement, learning, milk production, memory, sleep or attention, although it is known above all because it provides pleasure and relaxation. To this is added that, as it is related to the brain's reward system, the organism encourages us to repeat those behaviors that have caused its liberation, among which, of course, is sex; But, like oxytocin, you don't have to have an orgasm during the menstrual cycle for it to appear, its levels increase notably in the… precisely, pre-ovulatory phase.
Hormones, neurotransmitters and the menstrual cycle
As we explained in this report about the different phases of the menstrual cycle, during this, hormonal levels vary, directly affecting our mood and our libido. And when is the sexual desire strongest? Although each woman is a world and her menstruation is another, various studies have determined that sexual desire begins to manifest itself at the time of menstruation and increases until it reaches its highest peak at approximately 14 or 15 days, just before menstruation. ovulation. Why? Because during the cycle, the levels of estrogens and progesterone vary and, as we have seen, estrogens increase sexual desire and elevate the mood (due to its interaction with the neurotransmitters of happiness), while progesterone reduces them.
Sex drive during menstruation
Many women feel especially lustful in the first phase of their menstrual cycle for various reasons. One of them is the increase in lubrication and sensitivity, which increase the pleasure of all sexual games; to which is added the analgesic power of orgasm, which reduces menstrual pain.