Petite Mort: What It Is and Why Does it Happen?

August 2, 2019
During orgasm, brain activity reaches its peak and then goes down. This extreme change is the origin of the "petite mort," or "little death," after orgasm.

Petite mort, or “little death,” refers to a state of fading that some women experience after having an intense orgasm.

For many, it’s only a myth. However, there’s some scientific evidence stating that the petite mort does exist. We’ll tell you all about it in this article.

What Is “Petite Mort”?

Petite mort is a change in the female consciousness after an orgasmIt’s traditionally described as a fading or loss of consciousness.

However, it hasn’t been studied very much. Additionally, many people think it’s one of the sexual and spiritual myths. In fact, in many cultures, they see orgasms as a kind of spiritual trance.

However, modern science has sought to investigate the physiological causes of this “little death.” In this way, several studies have shown that the electroencephalogram changes during and after orgasm. Also, orgasms change brain activity.

We recommend that you read: Dry Orgasm: What Is it and Why Does it Happen?

What Happens in Your Brain During an Orgasm

During orgasm, the brain reaches a maximum point, then petite mort.

The moment of climax activates numerous areas of your brain. In fact, there are more than 8,000 nerve endings in the clitorisThat excitement causes a bombardment of sensations in the brain.

A study by scientists at the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois wanted to find out how orgasms affect the brain. According to the authors, if sexual stimulation is rhythmic and sufficiently intense, it can cause “neuronal entrainment.”

Therefore, the brain starts to activate parts like the amygdala, cerebellum, nucleus accumbens (by releasing dopamine) and pituitary gland (by releasing endorphins and oxytocin) in response to the activation circuit reward caused by pleasure.

In this sense, the excitement causes a “sexual trance” where the lateral orbitofrontal cortex is inhibited. Then, during an orgasm, the brain is focused on one thing: the sensation it’s feeling.

Therefore, we could say that a powerful orgasm is a sort of altered state of consciousness.

No, the Brain Doesn’t “Turn Off” During an Orgasm or Petite Mort

For some years, researchers thought that the activity in some parts of women’s brains dropped significantly during orgasms. However, a study shows that the opposite thing happens.

After asking several volunteers to orgasm during an MRI, the scientists were able to conclude. During the orgasm, brain activity gradually increases until it reaches a peak, then goes down.

We recommend you read: 5 Orgasm Types and How to Reach Them

What about Petite Mort?

In addition to petite mort, orgasms benefit your body in other ways.

Within the extreme changes in the brain from maximum stimulation and back down during orgasm, we find what’s called “petite mort.”

It’s not surprising that, after overexcitement in all senses, some women experience a fading feeling. Then, sometimes they need a few moments to put their brain activity back in order.

In any case, there are lots of benefits to female orgasms. They help women to:

  • Rest better.
  • Have an improved mood.
  • Boost their self-esteem.
  • Improve their tolerance for pain. In fact, female orgasms have a pain-relieving effect. This is because, during climax, the dorsal raphe is activated. Then, it releases serotonin, a hormone that blocks pain.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Improve their heart functioning.

No matter what, there’s no need to worry. Orgasms don’t involve anything dying. On the contrary, it’s a pleasure that gives your brain and body lots of benefits.

Therefore, whether with someone else or masturbating alone, doctors highly recommend this “sexual trance.”

  • Georgiadis JR, et al. “Regional cerebral blood flow changes associated with clitorally induced orgasm in healthy women”, Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Dec;24(11):3305-16.
  • Nan J. Wise, et al., “Brain Activity Unique to Orgasm in Women: An fMRI Analysis”, Journal of Sexual Medicine, November 2017, Volume 14, Issue 11, Pages 1380–1391
  • James G. Pfaus, Gonzalo R. Quintana, Conall Mac Cionnaith, Mayte Parada. “The whole versus the sum of some of the parts: toward resolving the apparent controversy of clitoral versus vaginal orgasms”. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 2016; 6 (0) DOI: 10.3402/snp.v6.32578