Orgasmic Birth: Exploring the Options; Labor Orgasms Called ‘Best-Kept Secret’

Labor Orgasms Called ‘Best-Kept Secret’ 

By  (@JujuChangABC) and GAIL DEUTSCH
Dec. 9, 2008

Painful. Excruciating. Unbearable. These are the words most often associated with childbirth.

But what about pleasurable? Blissful? Euphoric?

Some women even say that instead of agony, childbirth can be ecstasy.

Amber Hartnell of Hawaii said she experienced an orgasm during labor when she gave birth to her son in September 2005.

“All of a sudden the orgasm just started rolling through and rolling through, and it just kept coming, and my whole body was spiraling and rolling, and I was laughing and crying,” she said.

Hard to imagine? Hartnell and her husband, Nassim Haramein, were shocked as well. Although they had spent many hours planning for their son’s birth, in a tub under a tree outside their home, they say they never planned for an “orgasmic” birth.

Haramein was amazed — and also relieved — to see his wife experience such pleasure.

“It made me feel like everything was gonna be all right,” he said. “The experience didn’t have to be a traumatic, painful experience. It could be an experience of ecstatic joy.”

“It is, as we say, the best-kept secret,” said Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a childbirth educator for 26 years. “I believe by women having such terrible fear. … Women aren’t getting the choices they need, to make the experience as easy as possible.”

Tamra before Aislinn's birth
Tamra Larter
Tamra Larter allowed the birth of her second child to be filmed as part of a documentary titled “Orgasmic Birth.”

Labor Orgasms Are ‘Basic Science’

To prove that it is possible to have pleasure in childbirth, Pascali-Bonaro made a documentary called “Orgasmic Birth.”

Tamra and Simon Larter of suburban New Jersey were one of the couples that allowed Pascali-Bonaro to film their most intimate moments of labor. For their second child, the Larters wanted a natural birth with midwives at their home. They spent part of Tamra Larter’s labor kissing and caressing.

“The physical touch and the nurturing was just really comforting to me,” Tamra Larter said, adding that she ultimately experienced an orgasmic birth. “It was happening, and I could hardly breathe, and it was like, ‘oh, that feels good.’ That’s all I could say really.”

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” and “Mother-Daughter Wisdom,” said orgasms during labor are caused by basic science.

“When the baby’s coming down the birth canal, remember, it’s going through the exact same positions as something going in, the penis going into the vagina, to cause an orgasm,” Northrup said. “And labor itself is associated with a huge hormonal change in the body, way more prolactin, way more oxytocin, way more beta-endorphins — these are the molecules of ecstasy.”

Northrup says that women’s expectations can have a large effect on how pain is perceived.

“Whenever you expect pain, you tense up your muscles, your stress hormone levels go up and that increases pain,” she said.

Orgasmic Birth: Exploring the Options

Pascali-Bonaro said that one of the missions of her documentary is to show how the hospital experience should be improved to help decrease pain for laboring women.

“If we look at most other countries in the world, women have a lot of options. They’re allowed to be upright, they can move in labor. They can use warm water. They can use balls. There’s so much that they can do that makes the experience easier,” she said. “In the U.S. today, you walk in a typical hospital, you’re put in bed on your back. That in itself makes labor longer and harder and more painful.”

Joining in this message are women like Karen Brody, a playwright who wants women to make empowered choices about their birth experiences.

As part of her organization Birth on Labor Day, or BOLD, she developed a play called “Birth,” performed in communities to spread the message about new options in childbirth.

Kimberly Baker, a mother from Memphis, Tenn., directed and acted in one of the “Birth” productions, portraying a woman who ultimately experienced an orgasmic birth.

“Unless you’ve met somebody who’s had a positive, natural birth experience, and you’ve heard them tell the truth about their experience, then all you have is the unknown,” she said.

To actually experience an orgasmic, or pleasurable birth, Northrup says it’s important for women to lose their fear and their inhibitions. One method is to practice relaxation techniques. For Hartnell, chanting and doing yoga helped transform the pain into what she calls simply “sensations.”

Use Drugs or Go Natural?

Another key element is not to block those sensations with anesthesia — a prospect that is not pleasing to the many women who rely on modern medicine to avoid intense suffering during childbirth.

Claudia Montes
Courtesy Claudia Montes
Despite her husband’s concerns, Claudia Montes opted to have a natural birth with her third child in hopes it would be a pleasurable experience.

“The process of labor is there for a reason,” Northrup said. “It is part of the human experience to experience pain, the other side of which is this incredible ecstasy.”

Claudia Montes, a New Jersey mother of three, was determined to experience that ecstasy.

After giving birth to her first two children with an epidural, she wanted to have what she calls a “pleasurable birth” at the hospital, without pain medication. But her toughest obstacle turned out to be her husband.

“I don’t understand choosing pain over, you know, modern medicine where you could be blissed out artificially,” said her husband, Jay Edlin.

Montes disagreed, saying, “The whole thing is he didn’t want me to suffer. And my whole thing is, you know, suffering is perceived.”

Montes hired a midwife instead of a doctor and practiced hypnosis for months in order to relax for labor. Her hard work paid off.

“I didn’t feel pain,” she said. “I was in bliss, because I felt safe, because I felt empowered.”

Even her husband agreed she chose the right path.

“She ultimately was right and I was wrong. I never envisioned that, you know, it would have such a happy ending,” he said.

For women who hope to create a similarly happy ending for their labor, Pascali-Bonaro hopes they realize that it’s possible, but the goal is not necessarily an actual orgasm.

“I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is, every woman should have an orgasmic birth,” she said. “Our message is that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience.”

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What the whaaaaaaat?!  I certainly had never heard of this before . . .  Stoked at the possibilities it allows for the birthing process though.  The idea of having that experience be down-right blissful just seems beyond fantastical to me.  Why go through excruciating pain to get that little bundle of awesomeness in your arms afterwards, if you can make the experience hyper pleasurable and then STILL end up with that little bundle of awesomeness in your arms afterwards!  Man, oh, man . . .

Thanks Darrin for passing this video along; it certainly has been educational.  Dr. Brandey — would love to hear your response to this.

Horray for new perspectives! :)

with passion & gratitude — jennifer

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2 thoughts on “Orgasmic Birth: Exploring the Options; Labor Orgasms Called ‘Best-Kept Secret’

  1. Ahhhhh…. a soap box of mine….
    Perception of pain, well perception about giving birth in this culture… Why should births not be a great and memorable experience? Again, dare I say, most of medical paradigm has told us we are suffering an that women were not designed to give birth and its a horrible medical procedure, but dont worry they have doctors and they have a drug that can help. Sorry Ladies, your uterus is there for a reason! To populate the earth!!! Why would something so natural be so bad? Guess what, it doesnt have to be. :) Another wonderful reason I love working with pregnant women, because I can help them on their journey to have the birth they want and birth they will embrace. There is so much fear involved in birth, and it is such a normal natural part of life.
    Most of the women you see in home and natural births (youtube them and you’ll find tons of births very different that we see in TV or film) are in a squatted position or all all fours. Yes, let gravity help you ladies! Hospitals have women lay on their backs- why on earth? Oh cause its easier for the doctor… REALLY?!?!?! Never lay on your back, you have a 6-9 lb baby trying to come thru the birth canal and you have them laying on the sacrum. That is the area where all the nerves and the blood flow to the uterus are, I think the uterus needs as much nerve and blood flow as possible going to that area to help the process along. So laying on your back will slow, stop and cause labor to be more painful. Also hospital births, they have you hooked up to all kinds of machines and people are walking in and out checkin on you. Not exactly the best situation for relaxation and allowing the body to do what the body is designed to do.
    Home Births and other natural birthing techniques are on the rise. Women are becoming more empowered that their bodies are designed to give birth and it doesn’t have to be horrible. Dont get me wrong its called LABOR for a reason but it doesnt have to be like they show in the movies.
    The entire perception of what happens in the birthing process is up to you. Do your research, talk to a midwife or Chiropractor and learn how amazing birth can actually be.
    Hope this helps… I just gave you a tid bit I could talk for days on this topic and another couple of days on why its so important to receive chiropractic care during pregnancy. We want the body functioning at optimal level. The femaie body is designed and innately knows what to do. Why do we fight it?!?!?!

    Sorry for the typos, I came across this and dropped what I was doing to respond :) Had to get it out, no time for proof reading. Keep up the good work Jen :) Luv you xoxo

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  2. “My baby arrived, without any pain relief, three hours later, and my recovery was incredibly quick because I didn’t tear or need stitches. I felt wonderful, but was slightly confused and embarrassed about what I had experienced. I also felt guilty that I had felt something usually associated with sexual intercourse during the birth of my daughter. But when I went online, I found hundreds of women blogging about similar experiences.

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