Clitoral changes, sexuality, and body image during the menstrual cycle: a pilot study

J Sex Med. 2013 May;10(5):1320-7. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12103. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Introduction: A relationship between sexual function and all body image variables has been reported. However, there are no studies analyzing the relationship between menstrual cycle, body image, and sexuality.

Aim: To evaluate clitoral changes, sexual behavior, and perceived body image during the menstrual cycle.

Methods: Twenty-four women underwent ultrasonographic (US) clitoral measurements, color Doppler evaluation of the clitoral artery, and hormonal testing. In addition, they were administered the McCoy Female Sexuality Questionnaire (MFSQ), the Stunkard Figure Rating Scale (FRS), and the Beck's Depression Inventory questionnaire (BDI).

Main outcome measures: The main outcome measures were clitoral volume, clitoral artery pulsatility index (PI), the MFSQ, the FRS, and the BDI.

Results: The subjects had a mean age of 29.3 ± 4.5 years and a mean body mass index (kg/m(2) = BMI) of 21.2 ± 2.0. US and color Doppler assessments showed significant increase in clitoral body volume (P = 0.039) and a decrease in the PI (P = 0.027) of the clitoral artery during the periovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle. These changes were significantly and positively correlated with estradiol levels (P = 0.009 and P = 0.017, respectively). The two-factor Italian MFSQ for sexuality and partnership was similar in all the phases of the cycle. The number of intercourses/week slightly increased in the periovulatory phase. The mean BDI was normal in all women and did not change during the cycle. The FRS showed no difference in all examined parameters during the three phases of the menstrual cycle.

Conclusions: In young, lean, eumenorrheic Italian women, there is no significant change, during the menstrual cycle, in sexual function, body image perception, and symptoms of depression, as assessed by the two-factor Italian MFSQ for sexuality and partnership, the FRS, and the total BDI score. However, our results suggest that estrogens, influencing clitoral anatomic and vascular changes, may favor genital arousability.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Body Image
  • Body Mass Index
  • Clitoris / anatomy & histology*
  • Clitoris / blood supply
  • Clitoris / diagnostic imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Sexuality / physiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color
  • Young Adult