Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a midwife, birthing educator and doula has over 25 years experience helping to deliver babies. Her video, ‘Orgasmic Childbirth’ was five years in the making, and followed several couples on their journey towards experiencing ecstatic childbirths, not necessarily free from pain, but augmented by pleasure and sensuality.
About the film – which can be purchased online by interested viewers in the Middle East – Pascali-Bonaro explained that it explores “the sexual nature of birth and its powerful role in the lives of women who are permitted to experience it fully. People who see this film reexamine everything they thought they knew about the act of giving birth and its life-affirming potential for both parents and baby.”
As a follow up to her groundbreaking video on the topic, Pascali-Bonaro has published a new book, Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience (June 2010).
The book, co-authored by Elizabeth Davis, provides information on the basics of childbirth and takes it one step further. It aims to prepare woman to be advocates in their own ecstatic labor and delivery experience, which medical science now admits in a normal, if not frequent, variable experience.
In fact, it has been reported that anecdotal studies suggest that up to 30% of women have had some sort of ecstatic sexual reaction during childbirth. It is, in the words of another midwife, ‘the best kept secret.’
How can this be? How is it possible for a woman to not only avoid pain but also potentially experience an orgasm while she is giving birth?
The Science Behind Blissful Birth
Christine Northrop, author of the bestselling Women’s bodies, Women’s Mind’s, and an advocate for Orgasmic Birth explains, “All of the pathways that are involved in sexual pleasure are in fact stimulated by birthing a baby. And when you can allow yourself to open in the same way you open to orgasm, the exact same experience is possible.”
Objects going in or out can stimulate a woman’s body. The direction does not matter. And during childbirth, women experience hormonal surges that diminish pain. The most important player is oxytocin, also known as the caregiver or bonding hormone.
Oxytocin is released when we orgasm, when women breastfeed, and during childbirth, and is responsible for all those feel good ecstatic sensations. Research demonstrates its potential to diminish pain, and ameliorate the symptoms of certain autistic disorders. Studies with intranasal oxytocin also led to increased empathy in men.
From an eco-sexy perspective, it’s fair to say that oxytocin is a laboring women’s most benevolent friend if an environmentally and natural way to reduce pain is her goal. But there is a catch in this scenario: oxytocin a shy little player in the endocrine system and ‘behaves’ differently than other hormones, for worse (if you don’t know how it functions) or better (if you do).
First, it is secreted in spurts and not continuously, like most hormones. Additionally, levels decrease over time unless you retrigger its release. Things like fear, bright lights, or having strangers watching you can easily inhibit its release. Kisses, caresses, sensual touch, and self-pleasure can help increase its release.
Two other bits of information to add to this intriguing information: Studies show that couples who engage in more non-sexual touch have higher levels than those who experience less physical affection. Second, anecdotal data to suggest that genital massage during birth may help prevent perineum tearing.
The Future of Childbirth?
Pulling this all-together leads to one intriguing possibility: Imagine that most everything you know about childbirth is in fact an artifact of fear, modern medicine and Hollywood hype, and that pleasure may indeed be as likely an outcome of birth as pain.
And then consider this legacy for the next generation of birthing mothers: Quiet room, dim lights, husband kissing his wife, massaging her perineum, whispering loving words to her, all while she’s in a state of ecstasy. As the baby is crowning, she is given clitoral stimulation to bring much needed blood and reparative nutrients to the genital region, so that instead of tearing, her perineum is flushed with blood, preventing damage to her sensitive, sensual tissues?
We are the first to acknowledge that this is a revolutionary shift in thinking for most of us who take the hospital birth setting for granted. In no way is ‘orgasmic birth’ meant to replace a doctor or midwives care.
Instead, it challenges the status quo, and us, to open up to new possibilities, one that includes pleasure as a woman’s right during the most miraculous moments of her life.