By the time you got pregnant, chances are you saw plenty of people on TV and in movies having painful, difficult births, complete with lots of screaming and crying (and maybe a spouse’s hand being squished, too).
But what if birth didn’t have to be anything like that? What if it could be pleasurable? It turns out that there’s a movement trying to help more people experience this type of orgasmic birth.
Also known as an ecstatic birth, orgasmic birth is essentially the idea that some people may be able to experience an orgasm (or several) during childbirth. This orgasm could occur spontaneously or as a result of masturbation or even intercourse.
The idea of a pleasurable birth is something that birth doula Debra Pascali-Bonaro — who directed a documentary on the subject in 2009 — has been advocating for for a long time. In fact, on her website, she calls it “every woman’s human right.”
In short: Yes, it appears that it could be possible. However, evidence of this is largely anecdotal — there isn’t a ton of scientific research on the phenomenon.
And while it is possible, it does appear to be rare — though how rare, experts aren’t exactly sure because the subject is controversial and underreported. One 2013 study estimates that it could occur in about 0.3 percent of vaginal births.
(It’s worth noting, though, that advocates say that those numbers could be a little higher, because the subject is still taboo and people often don’t tell their partners or their doctor.)
So, how is it possible? Well, one reason is that the baby is moving through the same parts of your body that are involved in sexual pleasure.
Another is that during childbirth and lactation, a number of hormones are released, including oxytocin — one of the very same hormones that helps make you feel good during an orgasm.
It’s difficult to know if you’re a good candidate for an orgasmic birth — and it’s difficult to plan for one.
It may not be possible for everyone because every person’s anatomy is different, so how they experience orgasm is different as well.
Some people rely much more on clitoral stimulation in order to experience orgasm, but clitoral orgasms are different than uterine ones. Clitoral orgasms might not work as well during the throws of labor and it may not block pain.
It appears that people who experience orgasms during labor are actually experiencing a vaginal orgasm. But in order for this kind to happen, the baby would have to hit your G-spot as you deliver them.
In addition, some people have lower or higher pain thresholds, which could impact how they feel during childbirth — and determine whether an orgasm is possible for them.
Your views on sexuality also play a role.
People who are less open about their sexuality or feel more shame about it may be less likely to feel pleasure because they might find the idea of pleasure inappropriate psychologically. In other words: You’d have to be open to the idea of it happening.
It’s also less likely that you could have an orgasmic birth in the hospital, which is where an estimated
This is because you’re less likely to have privacy during a hospital birth and you’re more likely to have your ability to move around or change position limited, whether that’s due to hospital policies or because you’re hooked up to fetal monitors.
This is why even advocates of orgasmic birth encourage people not to plan for one. That said, you can plan ways to make labor more comfortable and enjoyable, even if there is no “birthgasm” and even in a hospital setting.
For example, you could ask for a private room, a water birth, or the ability to get up and move around.
So if you do experience a birthgasm or have orgasms during the earlier stages of labor it could act as a natural pain reliever to help decrease the needs for pain medications during childbirth.
Orgasmic birth — or at least trying for a more pleasurable birth experience — might also make you feel more empowered during childbirth.
There doesn’t appear to be any downsides per se, but focusing on having an orgasmic birth could put some pressure or stress on you if it isn’t working. It could even make you feel like you failed if you don’t have one and turned down alternate forms of pain management.
The biggest risk might be that you don’t feel comfortable attempting an orgasmic birth in a hospital, which is public, so you opt to stay home. But doctors usually recommend home births only if you have a low risk pregnancy.
This is because home births come with more risk of infant death or severe injury. It’s not recommended for people who:
- have had a prior C-section
- are pregnant with multiples
- have certain health conditions
If you want a more pleasurable birth experience, talk with your doctor to see if it would be safe for you to deliver your baby at home.
If they say it isn’t, you can still try for a more pleasurable birth experience in the hospital by requesting a private room and discussing your options with your doctor. They might be open to you giving birth in different positions, doing a water birth, or moving around the room.
If you’re considering masturbation or sex before or during labor, you’ll also want to talk with your doctor to make sure they don’t have any concerns.
Many people feel like it is taboo or inappropriate to discuss pleasure during childbirth, and this same taboo and stigma make some people feel shame if they spontaneously experience orgasm during childbirth.
Orgasms can be natural pain relievers — and less stressful births can be a good idea all around. So if you want to take control of your birthing plan and are open to the idea of orgasmic birth, that is your right.