We have all heard nightmare stories about women’s suffering during childbirth. Yet for some women, giving birth is an ecstatic and erotic experience. Spontaneous orgasms can occur during childbirth.
To understand why women’s birthing experiences are so different, we can look at the body’s biochemical response to the physical and emotional challenges of labour. The hormone oxytocin prompts dilation and contractions during labour. Many studies show a correlation of oxytocin levels with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. Oxytocin production is stimulated by cuddling and kissing, massage and orgasm.
Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that the body produces in response to stress and fear. Adrenaline counters the effects of oxytocin. It acts on all the body’s functions and tissues. Adrenaline makes us breathe quickly and shallowly, and causes the cervix to be tight and rigid. It inhibits various processes including childbirth and sexual response.
The body produces a cascade of powerful endorphins during labour. Endorphins are hormonelike chemicals that suppress pain and build a feeling of bliss. Endorphin levels are amplified by vigorous exercise, pain, love and orgasm.
Everything that helps a labouring woman to feel more relaxed, loved and erotically charged during childbirth suppresses adrenaline, leading to less pain and more bliss. Cuddling, massage and sexual stimulation produce endorphins and oxytocin. Labouring women can use a vibrator between contractions to keep their body erotically charged, and the amplified oxytocin and endorphin levels proceeding from sexual arousal will bring natural pain relief.
But the simple stimulation and suppression of hormones will not produce an orgasmic birth. Such experiences do not happen as isolated events, but rather, as part of the continuum of a woman’s erotic well-being. Birth preparations offer an opportunity for a woman to examine her sexual nature and level of sexual happiness. If sex has involved difficulty and struggle, if it is hard for her to take care of her own sexual needs, if she is not readily orgasmic, then inviting the possibility of an orgasmic birth suggests a focus on expanding erotic well-being. With or without a partner, she can learn to pay attention to her physical and emotional responses during arousal, give voice to her erotic needs, and amplify her capacity for pleasure. Kegel exercises strengthen the body for childbirth while enhancing sexual health. Vulva massage conditions the vagina and perineum to stretch around a baby, while providing unique pleasures. Sexual energy techniques drawn from Tantric and Taoist practices can facilitate a claiming of sexual power and joy.
Body memories stemming from sexual trauma can be reactivated during childbirth. Addressing sexual wounds and unresolved grief that can be locked in our body tissues is a vital part of preparing for labour.
I recommend that women who want an orgasmic birth experience explore their response to pain and intense genital sensation. Through practice, we can learn to respond without fear, so that adrenaline is suppressed and endorphins flood the system with natural pain relief. We can learn to thrill to sensations that might seem intolerable without training.
In childbirth we must always expect the unexpected, and there may be many personal and medical reasons why a particular childbirth is not orgasmic. Yet inviting the possibility of ecstasy into our understanding of childbirth can in itself be healing. Birth preparation can involve a sensuous journey of expanding erotic well-being.