Monday, December 22, 2008

Orgasms During Childbirth?

By Lisa Belkin
childbirthIllustration by Barry Falls

First thing next month (Friday January 2) will be the primetime debut of a film that has been making the “under the radar” rounds of women and film festivals since May. ABC’s 20/20 will air the documentary “Orgasmic Birth”, by Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a childbirth educator and a doula, which asks the question: What would happen if women were taught to enjoy birth rather than endure it?

Some women will see this film as a declaration of emancipation from the medicalization of childbirth. Others will see it as yet one more way to raise expectations and make new mothers feel inadequate if they do not experience the “ideal” birth.

The message of the film is “that women can journey through labor and birth in all different ways. And there are a lot more options out there, to make this a positive and pleasurable experience,” Pascali-Bonaro tells ABC. “I hope women watching and men watching don’t feel that what we’re saying is every woman should have an orgasmic birth.”

But the title certainly catches attention, referring to what Pascali-Bonaro calls “the best kept secret” of child birth – that some women report having an orgasm as the baby exits the birth canal.

Tamra Larter experienced that while Pascali-Bonaro’s cameras were rolling. She and her husband, Simon, opted to have their second child in their suburban New Jersey home, and through most of the hours of labor the couple was kissing and caressing.

“The phyical touch and nurturing was just really comforting to me,” Larter told ABC. Of the orgasmic birth that resulted she said: “It was happening, and I could hardly breathe, and it was like, ‘oh, that feels good.’ That’s all I could say really.”

Christine Northrup, an OB-GYN and author of “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” explains in the film that orgasms during labor are the results of chemistry and anatomy: “When the baby’s coming down the birth canal, remember, it’s going through the exact same positions as something going in, the penis going into the vagina, to cause an orgasm. And labor itself is associated with a huge hormonal change in the body, way more prolactin, way more oxytocin, way more beta-endorphins — these are the molecules of ecstasy.”

And on that note I open up the comments for your thoughts …