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The latest hot topic- birth and the orgasm

Its all over the press- orgasmic birth. The latest taboo has been broken, opinions abound, and as always seems to be the case with birth, each camp is happily throwing pies at the face of the other. ‘Outrageous’ scream the disbelievers, ‘yes,yes,yes’ retort the natural birth brigade………

That the lid has been lifted on an otherwise avoided topic is no bad thing. I have had women come to me (not many I confess, but enough to be noteable) claiming that they felt something akin to an ‘orgasm’ in birth and that they felt very uncomfortable with the idea of it. That it is possible to have an orgasm in birth does not mean, not for a moment, that it is the holy grail. The journalists who are busy saying we should not talk about it lest we mismanage women’s expectations are often the self-same people who feel it is absolutely fine to talk about the horror stories without similar concern that we might be painting a completely negative picture of birth and and creating self-fulfilling prophecies in doing so. That the occasional woman is suprised at having an until recently unheard of experience in birth does not mean that everyone can nor that they would want to. Some women are utterly disgusted at the thought, others mildly intrigued, but I am yet to meet any who would put it on their birth plan.

Debate on this topic is wholly good. For a start, it stops the minority who might have had the experience from  feeling as though they are freaks. Secondly, it opens up the idea that birth might actually be pleasurable. Not for all, not even for most with the way birth is conducted ( and I dont use that word without intent) in most of this country but for some. And to even put that thought into a pregnant woman’s head- that it could, it can, be good and not just good but even amazing can only be a good thing. Firstly no one does it. Everyone is too busy talking about the horror. I remember my sister-in-law saying it was only a few weeks before she was due to have her first child that someone actually said ‘You might actually really enjoy it, I did’. I remember an Aunt of my husbands saying that she loved giving birth, and she was definitely a lone, but utterly welcome voice. Mind and body are intimitely linked and we underestimate the power of positive thinking ( horribly hijacked by the self-help industry so the idea makes us all wince) at our peril.

There are as many births out there as there are babies. It is high time we started talking about all of them- every infinite possibility before we all think that an induced,  immobile,  sensation-free trauma is all that birth could ever be.

The women who talk about their births being orgasmic would probably also testify to the experience- though bearing all the hallmarks- as having been very different to the orgasms they have in the throes of passion with their partner or anyone else they choose to get coital with. But equally it is no coincidence that these experiences could be linked. How- pray tell- did we get to be giving birth in the first place? Those who presistantly seek to deny the sexual nature of birth are missing the point slightly. And the hormones involved at the end are the very same ones that are involved at the beginning. The good old love hormone oxytocin that Michel Odent always talks about ( and he has brought out a very timely book called ‘The Functions of the Orgasm’   ) gives us that fabulous post-coital high/soporific bliss and does the very same thing after or even during birth. Oxytocin levels even increase to give us that feel-good factor at dinner parties, but no one gets all awkward about that.

I think it is high time we stopped being so prudish and used this as an opportunity to better understand birth , understand the hormones involved and the conditions that will best enable them. The sooner women know that they are going to have to let go & give themselves up to the brith experience, the way you do when you are having mind-blowing sex, the better. Most people are not going to go to have some transecendant sexual experience when they give birth - I am not sure doctors could handle it for one thing- but let us entertain the possibility- let us entertain every possibility so that we can stop being so blinkered in our approach to birth and we can start helping women to at least have a healthy, happy and utterly positive experiences, even if not a mind-blowing ones.

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