The documentary Orgasmic Birth by childbirth educator and filmmaker Debra Pascali-Bonaro was an instant hit when it circulated theaters last year. With a name like that, how could it not? After all, it has the O word in it, and many of us could not imagine such a thing during the pain of labor. We just had to watch it.
Now Pascali-Bonaro and Elizabeth Davis, a midwife and author, have written the complete How-To on getting the ultimate pleasure during childbirth.
They talked to me in advance of the release of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience, which goes on sale June 8, to dispel several myths right from the get-go:
Myth: Orgasmic birth is just like having sex with a partner.
It's just as good, but different. The hormones are the same, and there is certainly lots of vaginal stimulation. Some women have the actual contractions of orgasm, but others report a flood of physical sensation and excitement leading up to the moment of birth, which is experienced as a tremendous release accompanied by ecstasy and joy.
Myth: Opting for this method makes you selfish, and a pervert or something.
Hardly! Orgasmic birth may be the "best-kept secret" because of the disinformation the media has showered upon us, but that doesn't mean that it isn't part of our birthright as women.
Myth: Being around the doctors and nurses makes it even more exciting.
Orgasmic birth actually works best when a mother has privacy. It's all about the hormones -- oxytocin, the hormone of lovemaking and orgasm, is 10 times higher in spontaneous labor and birth than at any other time of our lives. But if, due to fear or anxiety, we start releasing adrenaline, oxytocin levels diminish, labor takes longer, and the ecstasy response is less likely. Anything that stimulates the cerebral cortex -- bright light, idle conversation, a feeling of being observed -- shuts down oxytocin production. Think of the circumstances that suit you best for lovemaking, and you get an idea of the environment necessary for orgasmic birth.
This doesn't mean that doctors, nurses, and midwives can't be present -- but they need to do so discreetly, with an understanding of the physiology just described.
Myth: Orgasmic birth is risky for your baby.
Not at all! The higher a mother's oxytocin levels, the higher the baby's. Oxytocin helps mediate the stress of the birth process and prompts deep, powerful bonding, essential to the postpartum health and happiness of the entire family.
Myth: You can't plan a birth like this, which is why this idea is so foreign to many women. It happens or it doesn't.
You certainly can set the stage for orgasmic birth by choosing a setting and care provider that support it. And the healthier you are, the less likely you are to require interventions that might derail the possibility. It's also wise to maintain a vibrant sexuality during pregnancy with your partner and with yourself. More details of preparation are provided by our book.
Myth: It's totally pain-free -- all you feel is pleasure.
Some women do have pain-free labors, others describe the sensations of labor as physically intense or uncomfortable, and some experience significant pain, particularly if labor is complicated. Even so, the actual moments of birth can be orgasmic and ecstatic just the same. Reframing the sensations of labor as rushes or surges rather than contractions can make a big difference in your perception of these sensations.
Are you going to plan for an orgasmic birth?