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What's An Orgasmic Birth? It's A Way To Rethink The Idea Of Labor & Delivery

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Consider the way childbirth is often depicted in movies and shows. The laboring mom screams, demands painkillers, and shouts obscenities at her partner (and maybe some doctors, too). It is a painful, chaotic scene. For people who want to approach labor and delivery in a different way, though, the idea of orgasmic birth might be appealing. Wait, what's an orgasmic birth?

To begin, the idea of orgasmic birth is all about changing the current approach to childbirth, and normalizing the potential for pleasure during this experience. In an interview with Romper, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a doula and author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience, explained that the way birth is currently managed in society is somewhat limiting. By only thinking of labor as something that occurs in a hospital, while the laboring woman is overwhelmed by pain, people miss out on the opportunity for positive, pleasant feelings at this time.

In fact, feelings of pleasure during birth are natural, but often left out of the discussion. As Pascali-Bonaro said, she often had women confide to her in secret that their birth experiences were pleasurable, and on occasion even orgasmic. This brought them feelings of confusion and sometimes even shame. Wasn't birth supposed to be a painful experience in a clinical setting?

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Pascali-Bonaro was disheartened by the number of women who felt bad about, well, feeling good. "Why are people more comfortable with fear and pain than love and pleasure?" she said. Orgasmic birth is a beautiful way of bringing more love to the childbirth experience. Women are welcome to give birth on their terms, making the experience as sensual and positive as they like.

Before going further, it is just as important to define what orgasmic birth is not. Note that the word orgasmic is used in a broad sense. Sure, some women do experience an orgasm while giving birth (AKA birthgasm) — and that's totally cool — but this is not the end goal of an orgasmic birth. Rather, the goal is to provide women with the opportunity to experience the fullness of birth, and the range of feelings that may accompany it. Furthermore, orgasmic birth is in no way performative. Women are not expected to fake an orgasm while delivering the baby. Instead, women are invited to experience birth on their terms, in whatever manner appeals to them personally.

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Additionally, the potential benefits of orgasmic birth are tremendous. Managing pain is a big factor. In fact, at a recent birth Pascali-Bonaro attended, the woman said she would not describe the birth as painful at all. Sure, the experience may be intense, strong, and challenging. But by reframing the way people think about labor, pain may not be the only way to experience it.

That said, the prospect of orgasmic birth can present challenges for some individuals. For instance, women who are survivors of sexual abuse might not initially view sexuality as a safe, welcoming aspect of their lives. But as Pascali-Bonaro explained, orgasmic birth could offer these women the opportunity to reclaim their bodies and enjoy their birth. Additionally, Pascali-Bonaro says an orgasmic birth may be difficult to achieve for women who need an epidural or Cesarian section for their delivery. Sometimes the need for safety makes an orgasmic birth less possible.

For many women, though, orgasmic birth is a fantastic way to reframe the traditional portrayal of labor. Gentleness, joy, and even sensuousness are all possible ways to approach birth. In many cases, birth is a transcendent, beautiful experience: and that reality deserves more acknowledgement.