New to Bounty?
By Danielle Colley
When talking about childbirth the most common words used to describe the sensations are excruciating, exhausting, and intense. A word less commonly associated with the most primal activity a woman will ever experience is “orgasmic”.
Although actual numbers are imperfect due to many women never talking about it, a 2013 study by French psychologist Thierry Postel revealed that about 0.3 per cent of births are orgasmic, also known as ecstatic births.
It may seem like an oxymoron, however Shamanic birthkeeper, Avalon Darnesh, believes birth is the ultimate sexual experience therefore it is natural that our sexual organs can experience it as pleasurable.
Avalon not only guides women on how they can experience ecstatic birth, but has also experienced it herself.
“There are ways that you can prepare yourself for an orgasmic birth, because it’s all about energy flow and sexual energy,” she says. “Our culture removes sexuality from birth, but birth is sexuality.”
Apparently you can prepare yourself for an orgasmic birth, because it’s all about energy flow and sexual energy. Sounds good!
Being wired up to monitors, bright lights and clinical surroundings in a labour ward is not especially conducive to free-flowing oxytocin (the love hormone) so surroundings can play a large part.
“Being somewhere safe and comfortable, being with people you are comfortable with. Just being safe and warm, similar to an environment where you would enjoy to make love,” says Avalon.
The name orgasmic birth inspires images of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, however it’s usually not quite the “O” we know.
“It’s a whole broader sense of the word orgasm. Often people think of an orgasm as a peak experience, but from a more tantric perspective orgasm is a state that you can get into which is very ecstatic and blissful. It may or may not include that peak orgasm,” tells Avalon.
Just as the female orgasm is different for every woman, so too is the orgasmic birth. Some plan for it, and never peak, others have never heard of it, and get the surprise of their lives when they come.
Such as it was for Emily Tait during her first labour.
“I had been in the bath and then they got me out so that they could see how I was progressing, then when I was on the table I felt the urge to push,” she recalls.
“Midwifes were really laid back and said ‘so push’ and my daughter, Gael*, was crowning almost immediately. I was definitely in pain with an intense burning sensation, but then as I kept pushing I realised that I was having an orgasm – not like ones I usually have – but definite clitoral action.”
“Gael came out with her hand by her face, which caused a quite severe labial tear. The midwife said that I was lucky that it wasn’t more serious because it went all the way to my clitoris. I expect that’s what triggered the orgasm.”
Although Emily knew what happened physically, she had never heard of such a thing and had what is unfortunately a typical response to a very natural bodily reaction.
“Being British I was really embarrassed and hoped that it hadn’t been obvious to the midwives. I didn’t even tell my husband until months after the birth.”
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One study reveals that 0.3 per cent of births are orgasmic, also known as ecstatic births.
From an anatomical point of view the contractions experienced during labour are similar to the contractions experienced during an orgasm. The birth canal, cervix, vagina and clitoris are all being activated during the birthing process and if you can release the fear of pain, you may be able to experience something else altogether.
“Physiologically, birth and sex operate almost identically,” says doula from Birthing Brave, Chelle Luke. “If you look at hormones at play, oxytocin, endorphins, adrenalin, the anatomy involved, brain activity and nerve receptors that are firing… it’s all there ready for women to drop into and surrender to.”
Sexual stimulation is widely accepted as part of the induction process to bring your baby on. This includes sex, masturbation, passionate kissing, light sensual massage and nipple stimulation.
“All of these things also work beautifully while in labour to manage sensations, to intensify surges if they have slowed down, to connect a woman back to her body and her process if she has been interrupted,” explains Chelle.
“In our society we have been conditioned to think that labour is something women have to endure; it’s painful, frightening, in a foreign environment, with strangers coming in and out of your room, talking loudly, interrupting your flow and yelling at you to push when your baby is about to be born.”
How can we prepare ourselves to experience this more sensual, and less fearful labour? By honouring your body.
“The top few things I recommend to all of my clients are; prenatal yoga or pilates, intuitive massage therapy, breathwork, meditation, reading and watching positive birth stories, making lots of love to their partner and even masturbation.”
“Anything that will bring the woman into her body, connecting her to her breath and the sensations in her body, and enabling her to comfortably let go and surrender even more,” says Chelle.
“If you are in a relationship, I believe the connection with your partner is crucial. Spend time falling in love all over again, exploring your intimacy more deeply, breathe together, explore your body together, what really feels good for you? Use your voice, speak your needs, fall into them, allow yourself to be held,” suggests Chelle.
A strong, solid loving connection, and a hot sex life are not essential when it comes to an orgasmic birth. That said, if you are in a loving relationship, and can entertain the possibility that labour needn’t simply be endured, you may as well try to utilise it as you embark on the greatest miracle of all.
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Danielle Colley is a writer, blogger, mum and ice cream afficionado. She is a regular contributor to The Weekly and other online and print publications.
You can see more of Danielle on her blog, Keeping Up With The Holsbys, or her Facebook page facebook.com/keepingupwiththeholsbys.