Play a word association game about birth and the words most commonly used to describe labour are likely to be: painful, excruciating, agony. Labour is usually thought of in terms of how much pain you will be in – labour hurts, it’s supposed to hurt, and if it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right. Or so we’re led to believe. But what about experiencing labour as ecstatic, pleasurable, blissful? How about an orgasmic birth?
There is a growing number of women who are experiencing what they call orgasmic birth, describing their labours as sensual and pleasurable. An orgasmic birth is not only possible, but it actually has many benefits for you and your baby.
What Is Orgasmic Birth?
Like all mammals, we are well designed to give birth. During the last moments of birth, a massive surge of oxytocin is released into the body. This surge is necessary to ensure the placenta is delivered with minimal blood loss.
Oyxtocin is known as the love hormone. We experience increased levels of oxytocin when we are breastfeeding, and during orgasm and birth. These activities require higher levels of oxytocin, and often require certain conditions to occur as well.
During the last stages of birth, when your baby’s head is descending into the birth canal, nerve receptors are stimulated. This triggers the surge of oxytocin that stimulates the fetal ejection reflex – the spontaneous, involuntary pushing contractions that quickly and effectively push your baby out.
During this final birth stage, women can experience a heightened ecstatic emotional state. In this ecstatic state, it’s possible for women to feel the same sensations as during sexual orgasm, created by exactly the same hormone and stimulated by the physical sensation of the baby moving down the vagina. Clitoral tissue extends up into the vaginal wall, so any pressure in this area can stimulate orgasm.
Studies performed 30 years ago showed that stimulation of the vagina and clitoris can block pain messages being sent to the brain, which can reduce pain sensitivity during labour.
How To Achieve An Orgasmic Birth
The idea of orgasms and birth occurring at the same time takes some getting used to. Yet orgasm and birth happen under exactly the same conditions, because they are both driven by the same hormone – oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a shy hormone; our bodies stop producing it when we feel observed or self-conscious. Imagine trying to achieve orgasm under bright lights with an audience standing around watching and talking to you. The same mechanism that applies to orgasm also applies to birth. Oxytocin levels are increased by:
- Darkness or dim lights
- Safety and support
The most important aspect of achieving an orgasmic birth is to labour without being disturbed. In today’s birth culture, this is extremely challenging. Most births take place in hospitals, with about 96% of women labouring under lights, without privacy, and often having to meet specific criteria before being allowed to birth naturally.
Are All Orgasms The Same?
Our perceptions of pleasure, and indeed what stimulates us to experience something as pleasurable, are very individual. Some women experience orgasmic birth in the same way others experience their favourite decadent dessert.
“I felt a power building up inside me, an almost unbearable feeling of being nearly there…it seemed like each time I pushed I would almost reach that peak. As the baby’s head crowned, I felt that sensation as fulfillment rather than pain. My whole body was buzzing and I could only describe it as pleasure.”
Only about 0.3% of women will actually orgasm during birth, according to a survey of French midwives, published in the journal Sexologies. To experience orgasmic birth doesn’t necessarily mean having an orgasm. Some women will experience an ecstatic feeling during birth, without the physical sensation of climax. While orgasm during birth is indeed possible, it’s not the benchmark every woman needs to attain in order to enjoy her birth experience.
“The contractions would build to the peak, the pain being sharpest at the very end. I would feel almost high with the sensation…each surge would lift me further into a vortex of sensation.”
How each woman feels during birth depends vitally on the environment she is in, and who is in her space. From an early age, women are conditioned to fear the pain of labour and not to expect birth to be a pleasurable, or even positive, experience. Whether you achieve an orgasmic birth or not, having a blissful or pleasurable experience during labour is not something to be ashamed of.
Recommended Reading: Undisturbed Labour – What Is It?