Let's talk a little bit about lady blue balls. No, that's not the name of a fancy lass in some Jane Austen novel who's just looking for love in a society that constrains her. Rather, it’s that feeling you get when you’re really, really turned on, but unable to find any kind of release. You might have heard people with penises discuss this condition, but can girls get blue balls, too?
No matter your anatomy, it can feel uncomfortable, or even painful, when you’ve been aroused for an extended period of time and orgasm doesn’t seem to be in the cards. “When someone is sexually aroused, blood flows into the genitals and pelvis and causes a ‘heavy’ feeling,” Dr. Logan Levkoff, sexuality and relationships expert, tells Elite Daily. “This heaviness can sit in testicles, but also in the clitoris, labia, and pelvis. But without climax and the muscle contractions that are part of it, that heaviness isn't released.”
If that doesn't happen, the blood stays trapped (and yes, that’s as uncomfortable as it sounds). “With an increase in blood flow, the surrounding erectile tissue expands, which can cause pain, heaviness, cramping, aching, and discomfort,” says women’s health expert, author, and URJA Intimates co-founder Dr. Sherry Ross. This can lead to vasocongestion — also known as pelvic congestion, “blue vulva,” or, in Ross's words, “blue bean.” Aka: Female blue balls.
There are a lot of psychological, physical, and relationship-related factors that make it difficult for someone to orgasm, from past trauma to new medications, to performance pressure and anxiety. And even though blue balls are often identified as an issue that impacts penis-owners, people with vaginas are much more likely to actually report trouble orgasming: A 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior noted that only 65% of heterosexual women expect to climax during sex, compared to 95% of heterosexual men.
In other words, if any of the below symptoms sound familiar, you aren’t alone. Luckily, there are some ways to find release, and you can find solace in the fact that the pain won’t last too long. Here’s what you might notice if you’re feeling the blues, so to speak.
1. An Achy Clit
It's no surprise that your clitoris, with all its nerve endings, would face the brunt of blue bean, explains Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., and host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast. “Since the clitoris (and the labia) also swell with pleasure during arousal, it’s possible for you to experience some mild pain or discomfort if you become excited, but don’t have an orgasm,” she tells Elite Daily. Some people have described it as an ache in their clit; Ross says you might experience a sensation of pain and pressure.
2. A Sore Uterus
According to Medical Daily, the uterine walls also become engorged when you're aroused, so some women might experience an internal ache or feeling akin to menstrual cramps. “You might experience some pressure in the region if you get sexually excited, but don’t have an orgasm. This is also related to vasocongestion — blood pressure increases, but the blood vessels are constricted during erection,” says O’Reilly.
3. An Uncomfortable Feeling of Fullness
When you're turned on, the vaginal walls also become engorged and swollen. Because of this, not climaxing can result in an unpleasant, heavy sensation. “You feel kind of full, like there’s a weight in your pelvis that needs to be released,” Teresa Hoffman, M.D., an OB/GYN and medical director of Hoffman & Associates, told Women’s Health.
Experiencing some of these symptoms right now? You have a few options: Trying to have an orgasm, if you can, might be your best bet. “If you experience discomfort or tension because you haven’t had an orgasm, you can simply use a toy, your hands or another prop to help you have an orgasm. This will release the pressure via pleasure,” says O’Reilly.
You can also just wait it out. If you do something else that isn’t stimulating at all, Ross says, your blood flow will eventually return to normal. “Be patient,” she advises. “The painful symptoms will go away within 30 minutes if you do a non-arousal activity.”
Sexual discomfort isn't pleasant, so if this turns into a recurring problem, you can always try to consult a sex therapist or start an open, honest conversation with your partner about what’s working and what isn’t. Another preventative measure, of course, might just be setting aside some alone time to get to know your body (and your orgasms!) a little bit better.
Baulkman, J. (2016, June 2). Ask An Expert: Is There Such A Thing As Female Blue Balls? Medical Daily. https://www.medicaldaily.com/blue-balls-sex-388506
Frederick, D. A., John, H. K., Garcia, J. R., & Lloyd, E. A. (2017). Differences in Orgasm Frequency Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men and Women in a U.S. National Sample. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47(1), 273–288. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-0939-z
Dr. Logan Levkoff, Ph.D, sex educator
Miller, Korin. (2016, Jan. 29). Can Women Get Blue Balls, Too? Women’s Health.
Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., sexologist and television personality
Additional reporting by Rachel Shatto.
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