Having an Orgasm During Childbirth? Yes, It's Real
The birthing experience is associated with one of the worst types of pain, but for some women, it results in a mind-blowing orgasm. Having an orgasm during childbirth is certainly not the norm, unfortunately, but it's more common than you’d think.
How many people have orgasms while in labor?
It might sound strange, but people do have orgasms during delivery. An orgasmic birth, ecstatic birth or birthgasm is more likely to occur while the baby is in the birth canal.
A 2013 study in Sexologies found midwives observed orgasms in about 1 of every 333 births.
"The true incidence is unknown because most women will not likely tell others about their orgasm since people don't talk about them in general," explained Kim Langdon, M.D., an OB-GYN based in Ohio. "People will tell their doctors about pain, but not that something is pleasurable.
Why do some women experience orgasms during natural birth?
If you think of words describing an unmedicated birth, you likely aren’t using adjectives like “pleasurable” or “fun” to describe the process. That’s not the case for some lucky women. We don’t know why this happens, but a few ideas exist.
"It's possible that those who experience orgasmic births are 'in the zone,' as athletes do when they effectively block out pain and fatigue to perform superheroic feats. Or even the fight-or-flight response, when people are able to do superhuman things and do not have any idea how hard the task they did actually was," Langdon said. "A huge rush of endorphins could explain all of this."
Medical professionals seem to agree. It could be our biology to blame.
"As a researcher of birth, I believe orgasmic birth is a phenomenon of the autonomic nervous system and the hormone oxytocin," said sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, Ph.D. "It may be a natural in-built pain relief and mother-infant bonding mechanism."
Ideally, childbirth occurs in a state called "immobilization without fear," Melancon explained. "The activation of this state involves the vagus nerve, the parasympathetic nervous system [associated with 'rest and digest'] and oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding. Someone giving birth will release more oxytocin when they feel safe and supported by trustworthy companions.
One woman’s true story of an orgasm during childbirth
The first time that Kammi, a 45-year-old creative director in Alaska, gave birth, she experienced a harrowing, unmedicated home birth.
"It was like being hit with a sledgehammer in my lower back every time a contraction came...for 12 hours. It was brutal," Kammi remembered. It wasn’t exactly the birth plan she’d envisioned.
Second time’s the charm
In preparation for her second birth, which she also chose to undergo at home without pain medication, she wrote in a journal about her first birth to process her fear of pain and came up with a plan for how to handle various difficult situations that could arise.
"I arranged for both a doula and an acupuncturist to attend my birth," recounted Kammi, who preferred to use only her first name.
She wanted a trained professional and doula support to help her through.
"I had a medicine kit of essential oils, homeopathic remedies and instructions for when to use each kind. I exercised and hula-hooped throughout my pregnancy, meditating on the spiraling motion that babies take during birth to be born. I did a lot of guided meditations from books and audio around relaxation and imagining my body to be a portal."
By the time she gave birth again, she didn't have the same optimism as the first time, but she'd made peace with the fact that things could and would go wrong.
"Birth, like an orgasm, is about the total loss of control," Kammi explained. "But how you perceive that loss of control can vary widely and ultimately determine how you experience it. Loss of control can be scary and painful, but it can also be joyful and ecstatic."
This radical acceptance paid off. When Kammi went into labor, she found her first contractions pleasurable instead of painful.
"When they pushed past the pleasure zone and into something that felt painful, that's when I leaned on my resources: birth doula, massage, acupressure, homeopathics, essential oils…" she said. "But I kept my mind fixated on experiencing the pleasure of the privilege of being able to birth my daughter into the world. And as I did, the waves of pleasure just got bigger and bigger and bigger until it felt like I was riding a massive tsunami to the shore, and when it finally crashed on the beach, she was born."
Kammi considers this to be her "first real orgasm." Her orgasms from sex paled in comparison.
But the story gets better: After her orgasm during childbirth experience, she began having much more powerful orgasms during sex as well.
The bottom line
All those comedies featuring screaming women may need to make a change. Apparently, labor and delivery can be a lot more fun for some women than others.
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