There is no sexual wellness without cycle care

There is no sexual wellness without cycle care

16th March 2022

Historically cycle tracking has been focused on ovulation and understanding how to use this information to support pregnancy or a more natural contraception method. However, here at FEWE, we advocate mapping your own arousal within your cycle, NOT just your fertility. 

76% of our participants connected cycle care solely with fertility and trying to get pregnant, not sexual wellness as a whole. Only 24% of respondents believed that their hormones affected their libido and how they felt about sex throughout the month. FEWE believes that understanding your hormones is vital to a happy and healthy sex life, both with partners and yourself. 

 

How do my hormones affect my libido? 

Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all affect sexual desire and arousal. Having higher estrogen levels in the body promotes vaginal lubrication and increases sexual desire. In turn, an increase in progesterone can reduce sexual desire. So understanding where you are in your cycle will help you identify when you may feel more turned on and sexually aroused. 

Cortisol also has a direct correlation to mood and quality of sleep. These factors, in turn (mood and sleep quality), indirectly have a significant impact on libido and arousal, and hence cortisol is an important factor in sexual wellness. 

The science behind your hormones

FOLLICULAR PHASE 

When oestrogen levels are highest leading up to ovulation, you produce more natural vaginal lubrication. You are also likely to feel more aroused due to the increase in oestrogen at this time, and some studies suggest that you may enjoy sex (with yourself or a partner) more at this time. 

 

If you enjoy giving or receiving a bit of consensual pain to enhance your pleasure, your cycle phasing might also impact this. Your pain threshold is highest when oestrogen is high - mid-cycle - so this is your ideal time for this kind of pleasure enhancement. 

LUTEAL PHASE 

After ovulation, as your oestrogen levels dip again and your progesterone levels increase, you may find yourself feeling less horny. 

The dual control model: The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES)

As well as your Hormones playing a part in your arousal levels, there is also something called the dual control model, more popularly known as our "sex drive". 

Your sexual response system is made of two systems: a Sexual Excitation System (SES) and a Sexual Inhibition System (SIS).

SES is essentially the "gas pedal" of your sexual responsiveness, and it notices sexually relevant information. This can include things like sights, sounds, smells, tastes, sensations, and thoughts. This then signals your genitals, saying, "turn on."

SIS is the sexual "brakes pedal" It notices potential threats and sends a "turn off" signal to your genitals. Threats can include physical and social situations like body image, performance or relationship issues or even things you deem dangerous. This part is working most of the time. 

To feel aroused it's not as simple as turning the on's on. You also have to turn the offs off.

 

Mapping your arousal levels during your cycle 

We all have different things that turn us off and on, so it's essential you start to identify what gets your going and what doesn't. It could be as simple as making notes or looking back when you felt aroused. 

Think about your sense to start with. This could include how you like to be touched, sounds you enjoy hearing and even things you enjoy eating. Our senses are vital to working out what can flip the switch. For example, having the lights up to bright could turn you off but having your legs massaged can turn you on. So turn off the offs and turn on the ones.

Once you work out what stimulates you into arousal, you can turn this on whenever you like. Also, remember to communicate this with your partner because communication is the key ingredient to better sex.