Yes! Yes! Yes! It's coming!: Orgasmic Birth

For further information, contact Melissa Maimann at Essential Birth Consulting. Link to article

Is it really possible to climax during labour? Viv Groskop talks to women who say they have and explores the controversy surrounding orgasmic birth.

Amber Hartnell did not intend to have an orgasmic birth - it just happened. "Trying to have an orgasmic birth defeats the object," she says, "I just got into this ecstatic state where I had these peaks of orgasm. There were these rolling waves coming through me where I was laughing and crying. I didn't feel like I was having contractions. They were more like rushes. I did not actually experience pain, I experienced intense sensations."

... Hartnell says this is definitely what happened during labour with her son Orus ... She had a water birth at home over a 12-hour period and the "orgasmic rushes" kept coming from about two thirds of the way through. "It was the most overwhelming pleasure I have ever felt in my life," Hartnell says ...

Now her experience has gone global. Hartnell ... features in a documentary, Orgasmic Birth ... "It was a really major deal sharing the most intimate and vulnerable moments of my life with the world," she says. "But I had the sense that sharing this story could help other women to break through their fear and have a beautiful experience of birthing."

The response to the film has been one of both fascination and horror. For many women the idea that childbirth can be orgasmic is at best hippyish and possibly offensive ... One heavily pregnant blogger writes that she "can understand pain being natural in childbirth and letting your body take over and making it as enjoyable as you can. But orgasmic? No. Whoever finds that orgasmic needs help, in my opinion." Hartnell, however, reports receiving hundreds of messages from enthusiastic supporters, including from several pregnant women who changed their birth plans after they had watched the film.

The title of the documentary is actually slightly misleading. Because while it features interviews with several women who swear they have had an orgasm during labour (and even shows eye-popping footage of them experiencing this), it is really about "undisturbed birth" - natural labour in a home setting, without drugs, or even gas and air ...

The documentary features Ina May Gaskin ... she says that an ecstatic birth "is the best natural high that I know of. Women don't have a way to know how their body works until they really try it out in birth."

The idea that birth can be orgasmic isn't new. The British birth guru Sheila Kitzinger says that she has met "hundreds" of women during the course of her career who report experiencing orgasm during labour - some were hoping for it, others were taken completely by surprise. "It is difficult for a man to understand," she says "hard, too, for any woman who has had an average hospital birth. But it can be one of the most profound psychosexual experiences in a woman's life ..." She puts this partly down to simple biology. "The pressure of the baby's head against the walls of the vagina and the fanning out of the tissues as the head descends bring for some women an unexpected sensation of sexual arousal, even of ecstasy." But is this really an orgasm? Or just a very unusual sensation? "It can be orgasmic ..."

The film's producer, birth educator Debra Pascali-Bonaro, says a woman's ability to feel intense physical pleasure during childbirth is "the best-kept secret"....

Women in the documentary have been criticised online for kissing their husbands ... during labour ... many of the processes associated with labour also happen during sex, such as the release of oxytocin and endorphins into the bloodstream ...

Why then do we feel so uncomfortable about the idea of women having an orgasm when they are actually giving birth? "It crosses the margin of decency - which I think is wrong," says Kitzinger, "We're told that sex is different from childbirth. In the same way, it is considered indecent to experience intense physical satisfaction from breastfeeding." ...

- I regularly lend out the Orgasmic Birth DVD to clients. The feedback is always positive - it's a different way of looking at birth, and of approaching contractions.

Melissa Maimann, Essential Birth Consulting.