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Vulva Pumping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Pussy Pumps

Written by Betty Butch on Sep 22nd 2021

Intro to Impact Play

“What does it feel like?” is often the first question people ask about vulva pumping.

Suction pulls the air from the cup, and the resulting vacuum draws your flesh in to fill the empty space. The pull and pressure are startling at first, but their combined grip is strangely pleasurable. It’s like getting a hickey without being bitten, except the sensation is spread broadly. You can feel your skin warm up with blood. Your body starts aching for something more, something that will get you off, like a touch or a toy.

When the air is released, sensation floods back even stronger, and the skin tingles. Depending on how long you’ve been doing it, sometimes the swelling lingers a little, making your skin soft and puffy.

What is pumping, and why do it?

Pumps create suction by pulling air out of a cup or cylinder you place against your body. This can induce a temporary “plumping” effect on your clitoris or labia. The suction isn’t usually continuous. Instead, suction comes in short bursts, followed either by a pause to enjoy the sustained pressure, or the release of air so the next draw is as intense (also called “pulsing.”)

Pumping can instigate or enhance arousal because it increases blood flow to the genitals and heightens skin sensitivity.

The act of pumping can be incredibly stimulating. The firm draw of suction, the rapid tugs of quicker pumping, the “naughty” thrill of watching your body swell up – there are a variety of facets that people enjoy. Some people pump purely for pleasure, while others pump with the goal of temporarily enlarging their genitals. The latter can be done for aesthetics, increased pleasure, or both!

Some trans men and nonbinary people pump because it feels affirming, can help you use transmasculine strokers, or as part of your medical transition journey.

Types of Pumps

Vulva pumps come in two varieties. Clitoral pumps like the Temptasia Beginner’s Pumping System are designed to suck and engorge the clitoris and nipples. “Pussy” or vulva pumps are used over the outer labia (but the clitoris is often indirectly stimulated as well.)

Just like vibrators or dildos, vulva pumps come in different shapes and sizes, and their features vary. Many are manual pumps, which means the pumping is done by hand with a squeeze bulb, trigger, or lever. Automatic pumps like the Bloom Automatic Intimate Pump create suction with the touch of a button. Automatic pumps are less work, but (besides the pump’s settings) the user has less immediate control over pumping speed and intensity.

The next major way pumps differ is by the size, shape, and material make of their cup (or cylinders, if it’s a clitoral pump.) This is the portion of the toy meant to fit over your anatomy. There are firm cups, flexible cups, shallow cups, deep cups, see-through cups, cups with stimulating ticklers…

Function & Features

Different pumps offer different experiences! For example, the Sensual Pump-Her has a shallow, flexible silicone cup with tickler texturing inside. It’s not meant for maintaining suction to create plumpness/swelling. It’s meant for “pulsing”: quick, short tugs of suction, with soft-but-rigid ticklers adding extra titillation.

The Kink Automatic Pump, on the other hand, has a rigid acrylic cup that keeps tightly suctioned to your puffed vulva. The suction is continuous and very strong. It has vibrations that simultaneously buzz and tease you.

While not all vulva pumps have extra bells and whistles (and not everyone wants them), there are a number of potential unique features:

Another characteristic to keep in mind is that if the pump is automatic or has a vibrating function, it needs a power source. Some pumps are battery-powered, and some are rechargeable.

Safety Measures

All good vulva pumps should have a release valve, which is a button or lever that you can use to release the air pressure. This breaks the suction’s seal and allows you to pull the pump off your body.

How to Use Vulva Pumps

To some, pumping might seem intimidating or intense. But it’s a pretty straightforward process that you can cater towards your needs/desires. Whether you just want to enjoy some delicious suction, or you’re hoping to temporarily plump up your clitorious and/or labia for a unique look and feel – here’s how to get started!

1. Test the pump on your arm first. If there’s not enough surface area, try your inner thigh. This will help you familiarize yourself with how fast or intense the suction is, and how to use the quick release valve.

2. Prepare the area you’re pumping by massaging/stimulating your labia and/or clitoris. This will wake up your skin and make the suction sensations less jarring. The labia and clitoris swell when aroused, which can make it easier to fit the pump.

3. Put lube on the opening of the cup/cylinder. This helps form a tighter seal over your anatomy so the pump is less likely to slide off. Thicker water-based lubes (like Sliquid Sassy or Sutil Rich Body Glide) work best!

4. If necessary, adjust yourself to get a good seal. If you’re struggling to get suction, you might have to move your labia a certain way (such as tucking your inner labia or “squishing” your outer labia together for a vulva pump) or hold your pubic mound back. You may have to hold the cup down at first.

5. Start off slow. Pumping too quickly can feel pinchy, and might even result in mild bruising if the edge of the cup is firm.

If your pump is manual, do one slow squeeze/pull at a time. Let yourself get used to the “tightness” before you squeeze/pull again.

If your pump is automatic and the lowest speed is too fast or intense for you, try “pulsing” the sensation as often as needed by hitting the quick release valve during suction.

6. Be aware of your body. Pumping can be incredibly pleasurable after you get used to the sensation. Take your time. If you need suggestions for how to get the most out of pumping, see the “x” section of this guide.

7. If discomfort persists or the suction becomes painful, take a break. Fully remove the pump, or – if it’s comfortable for you to do – you can stop actively pumping and just enjoy the current level of pressure. Some pumps have detachable cups/cylinders so you can enjoy this hands-free.

Depending on your goals, this might be where you stop actively pumping. If you’re hoping for swelling that lasts more than a few seconds, you’ll need to:

8. Continue to pump in intervals. Your on/off timing will vary, based on preferences and physical comfort. But generally 10-15 minutes of pumping (take breaks and/or release the pressure as needed), followed by 3-5 minutes with the cup/cylinder removed. Repeat as desired.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I can’t get the pump cup/cylinder to suction to my body?

No two vulvas are the same. Because everyone’s proportions vary, some pumps might not work with your individual body shape. You might have to try a different style! For example, if you have thin or sloped outer labia, a flexible and shallow cup (like the Sensual Pump-Her) might have an easier time finding a seal. If you have a thick or loose clitoral hood, a wider cylinder might be a better fit for your clitoris.

Pumps work best on smooth, flat skin. If you have bountiful pubic hair, you might want to wax or shave before your next pumping session. You may also want to try laying, lounging, or even standing in different positions, which can change how your outer labia drapes/settles. You can also try positioning furniture.

Do I have to pump until my body is plump/swollen?

Nope! Many people pump just to enjoy the suction sensation. Some automatic pumps and pumps with shallow cups are specifically designed just for pleasurable suction (and vibration) and not to create swelling.

What’s the longest I can pump?

(This is not medical advice. Consult a physician if you have safety questions.)

Pumping increases blood circulation, but sustained suction/pressure (such as leaving a cup sealed in place for a long time) limits blood circulation. Any time you’re impeding your blood circulation, you need to be cautious and attentive.

How long you can safely pump is highly individual, and depends on what you’re willing to tolerate in the aftermath. The longer you pump, the more enlarged you may become and the longer it will take for the swelling to go down. Pumping for long intervals without being familiar with how your body reacts can result in bruising, chafing, and soreness.

Pumping enthusiasts will sometimes enjoy 1 to 2.5 hour sessions using deep cups and the 10-15 minute interval method. For many bodies, this results in substantial plumping that lasts several hours. But as any enthusiast will tell you, it takes practice to get comfortable with marathon pumping!

Can the swelling become permanent?

There is no evidence that pumping permanently changes your body. (There are anecdotal accounts from some trans men and nonbinary people taking testosterone that frequent/intensive pumping promotes clitoral growth when combined with HRT.) Many enthusiasts do note that the more experience you have with pumping, the faster you can achieve noticeable plumping in a session.

The swelling/plumping effect from a long session of pumping should only last a few hours.

How will I know when to stop pumping?

As you become more familiar with your pump, you’ll get better at knowing when to stop or slow down. (And if you’re using a manual pump, you’ll have an easier time squeezing/levering to just beneath your “too much!” threshold.) As a beginner, try to keep things just below “intense.” If you start to pump and it feels pinchy or stings: stop, wait for your body to adjust, and try again. If the next draw still hurts, you’re probably done for the session.

If you struggle assessing your own pain or you have limited sensation in your genitals, err on the side of caution. Start off with no more than 10-20 minutes of sustained use as a beginner.

Why isn’t my vulva getting/staying “swollen”?

There’s a few potential reasons:

1. You’re dehydrated. As Healthline notes, “when fluid levels in your body fall, your body starts creating a hormone called angiotensin. This hormone causes blood vessels to constrict or tighten.” You need good blood flow to promote plumping! “The more hydrated your body is [...] the more efficiently blood can flow through your veins and arteries.”

2. Your pump isn’t designed to create sustained swelling. For example, many automatic pumps only have short pulse-style suction settings, which – while still pleasurable – only cause minor plumping. Another example is the cup/cylinder is too small/shallow for substantial swelling. L.A. Pump has deep cups in several sizes.

3. You’re not pumping long enough. Temporarily enlarged vulvas or clitorises are the result of patience and practice. Over time (weeks or even months), as you familiarize yourself with your body’s responses, you can lengthen your pumping sessions to increase plumping.

What should I do after pumping?

Pumping can dry/chafe your vulva, so consider using an intimates-safe moisturizer on your outer labia the next day. A long soak in the tub with non-perfumed soaps can also help with lingering soreness.

If you overextend yourself and you’re tender or bruised after a session, gently rinse the area with cool water. After, you can apply ice by placing some in a ziplock bag. (Don’t put ice or damp icepacks directly on your sensitive skin.) For the next few days, wear loose clothing (ditch tight-fitting undergarments if possible) and apply bagged ice as necessary.

Ways to Take Vulva Pumping to the Next Level

Take your time with masturbation by incorporating pumping.

When you’re getting off solo, it can be tempting to race to the finish. But if you want to make it last, vulva pumps are a great “warm-up” tool: they can instigate/enhance arousal, and they’re pleasurable but don’t provide enough direct stimulation (for most people) to cause an orgasm. Pumping also encourages you to pay closer attention to your body and its reaction to stimulation.

Take full advantage of post-pumping swelling.

After you’re done pumping, your skin will be plush and tender. You can take advantage of that extra sensitivity with textured toys like the Point Plus or Lush Juna, or “licking” vibes like the Rim Joy or French Kiss Casanova. For an even more intense experience, try an air pulsation toy. Just keep in mind that if your clitoris is engorged, you might need a toy with a wider opening, like the Satisfyer Traveler.

But you don’t necessarily need a sex toy to play with a swollen vulva. Grinding, tribbing/scissoring, oral sex – anything that involves your genitals is going to feel different. Enlarged clitorises can be touched and stimulated in unique ways, such as simulating a blowjob. (Some folks can even use strokers.) Partners can run their fingers/tongue/penis/etc between puffy labia.

Whatever you’re doing, use plenty of lube (and reapply as necessary) to keep things an easy, comfortable glide.

Make pumping a component of sex, not just a step.

Since pumping can be a little tricky (especially when you’re a beginner), it might seem like it should be its own isolated event. But some of the most pleasurable pumping is the result of doing it while simultaneously enjoying other sex acts.

For example, you can use a clitoral pump while being spanked, vaginally penetrated, or having anal sex. You can wear a detached vulva cup while going down on a partner. You can use a vulva pump and a separate pump for your nipples. You can drip warm wax on other areas of your body while an automatic pump works its magic. Just make sure you’re still checking in on your body and stop if you become numb, chafed, or sore.

Pair pumping with vibration.

There are, of course, numerous pumps that have a vibrating component built in. (For example, the Bloom Automatic Pump, whose buzzy vibrations travel through the whole toy.) But if yours doesn’t, you can use a vibe from your own collection!

If the pump’s cup is large enough, small bullet vibes like the Screaming O Vooom can be placed inside. A bullet won’t stay in place (unless you can nestle it between your labia) but on a low setting it can provide a pleasant tease you’ll be tilting your hips to chase.

For an experience that’s less likely to rattle around, you can use a soft-surfaced vibrator against the side of the cup/cylinder for a broader, more diffused rumble. Mini and mid-sized wand vibrators like the Noje Mini Wand have silicone-buffered heads; there are also soft-surfaced vibes like the Kurve.

Use the pump for teasing.

Pumping is similar to bondage, because a part of your body is restrained by the cup/cylinder. If you’re turned on by teasing, this makes a pump a great kink tool!

While you’re encased by the cup/cylinder, you or a partner can drum their fingernails against it. This can be a jarring tease that leaves you aching for a more direct touch. Partner(s) can lick around or even over the cup, emphasizing their oral skills everywhere except where you crave it most.

Pumping itself can be a tease too. With your consent, a partner can set a torturous pace. Maybe it’s drawn-out pumping that forces you to pay attention to every slow draw, or it’s quick, pulsing pumps that are almost too much.

Explore extra-sensitive sensation play.

Giggle-inducing feather ticklers, poke-and-prod wartenberg wheels, the shivery slide of silk sashes… sensation toys can bring you to exquisite heights, and that often goes double for skin plumped up by a pumping session.

Want to indulge a masochistic streak? Give your junk a gentle paddling (sure to make you squirm), try out an overpowered toy like the Magic Wand or Zumio, or explore temperature play with melted ice or a glass dildo that’s been in warm or chilly water. Pain enthusiasts can try using clamps on their labia, or a clitoris clamp