Childbirth is an experience that women are taught to dread; most stories around it center on the pain that it can cause. But some people say you don’t have to suffer to bring new life into the world—and that, with the right approach, childbirth can be the opposite: orgasmic.
It might sound out there, but orgasming during childbirth actually isn’t unheard of. In one study from the journal Sexologies, midwives reported witnessing orgasms in nearly one out of every 300 births. For some, this happens spontaneously—but mothers also may have more control over their birth experience than they think.
According to Debra Pascali-Bonaro, a doula, doula trainer, and co-author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience, much of the pain women experience during childbirth is a result of the way they’re treated in hospitals.
“Many hospitals use the same room for a sick person as a person giving birth, and that environment actually creates more pain,” she explains. “People don’t feel safe, they don’t feel respected, and so their hormones don’t flow. The hormones of conception and orgasm are the same hormones. They need to flow in labor, and if you look at the conditions at our current hospitals, how many people would have great orgasms in them? Those hormones don’t flow, so we use synthetic oxytocin and medications and drugs, and we’re making labor more painful.”
According to sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon, Ph.D., orgasmic births are more likely to happen in a home environment because women will feel a sense of safety, trust, and privacy. This is because orgasmic birth involves the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with relaxation. Comfort and positive emotions are key.
It’s also possible that those who have orgasmic births are in “the zone” or the state of "flow" athletes sometimes get into where they’re hyperfocused and able to block out pain and fatigue, says Kim Langdon, M.D., resident OB-GYN for Medzino.
Evidently, experiences of orgasmic birthing vary widely. To illustrate, here are six women’s stories of how they had orgasmic births.
“That birth was orgasmic, and I couldn’t at any point call it painful.”
"During my first birth, the nurses belittled me. I locked myself in the bathroom for a portion of my labor to avoid some of the common interventions. It was painful, but I think more of the pain was fear—fear that I wasn’t being treated right—because I found less pain in subsequent births.
"By my third birth, I realized I needed to be with a midwife, not at a hospital. At that point, I was understanding how birth was experienced on a physical level, but there's also an emotional, spiritual, and sexual component. In the birth center, I had a tub, a shower, birth balls, a queen-sized bed, a birthing stool, supported midwifery care, and aromatherapy. When you go into that environment, it’s like a mini-retreat. It’s way easier to find pleasure in the experience.
"That birth was orgasmic, and I couldn’t at any point call it painful. It was intense. It was amazing. Being fully aware of how to fully move my body, I gave birth upright. Feeling my baby move through my body and that moment of release, consciously being able to feel those last kicks and wiggles and feel his head as he was moving out [of] me—that was orgasmic but not sexual at all. Not an orgasm but that incredible connection and that deep love release that was so exquisite. I believe a pleasurable birth is everybody's birthright."
— Debra Pascali-Bonaro, 63, doula, doula trainer, and co-author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience
“I masturbated with my Hitachi during labor.”
"My first and second births were similar in some ways: I labored 47 hours and masturbated with my Hitachi during labor. However, for my first birth, we had chosen to birth at Kaiser, as it was what was covered by our insurance. We planned to birth naturally. However, the entire labor, I had a bevy of different doctors and nurses cycling through who [were] saying my labor was taking too long, constantly checking my cervix, and consistently pushing drugs my way.
"After 40 hours of nurses and doctors evoking a fear-based practice, guilting me around the length of my labor, and then informing me that my cervix was swelling, I broke down and had an epidural. My first birth was an experience in which I was surrounded by doubt, and I pushed through the fear-based environment that I was stuck in. My environment was different and my emotional landscape was totally different, so my perception of the sensations was also totally different.
"In preparation for my second birth, I took courses in yoga for birthing, felt very prepared with my midwives as we discussed the birthing experience, read books by Ina May Gaskin and watched documentaries on her work, and incorporated my own experience in energy work, energy orgasms, breathwork, visualization, ritual, and surrender into the experience.
"I wouldn’t classify any part of my 47-hour labor as painful, but there were different levels of sensation and intensity. I experienced pleasure, ecstasy, complete surrender, and high levels of intensity during my labor but never pain. I understood and welcomed the sensations. I had no fear, and I was surrounded by my partner and midwives, who believed in my body and supported my embodied birthing experience."
— Madison Young, 40, author of The Ultimate Guide to Sex Through Pregnancy and Motherhood
“He must have hit my G-spot.”
"By 6:30 a.m., I was nearly fully dilated, my contractions were strong and close, and the doctor was sitting on his stool between my legs. He inserted two fingers into my vagina and rolled them around, encouraging the final stretch of my cervix. As his fingers turned to the tummy side of my birth canal, he must have hit my G-spot, and pleasure jolted through my system.
"Hmm, I thought. That was odd. This was my third baby, and never before had that happened.
"The doctor continued. And, same as last time, when his fingers grazed over my G-spot, pleasure spread from my core—just as a contraction hit. An end-of-labor strong-as-hell contraction. And if you've ever gone through natural childbirth, you know what that's like. Like your body’s being ripped apart. Like your lady parts are splitting in two.
"And there’s the doctor, sitting on his stool, fingers massaging my thinning cervix, waiting for the baby to crown. And those fingers are still rubbing around the edge of my cervix and somehow still hitting my G-spot over and over again.
"It was too much. The pain and stimulation. It all became too much. They melded into one overwhelming sensation that left me floating in an orgasmic haze, mere minutes before a healthy, eight-pound one-ounce, 21-inch baby boy was born.
"The experience was weird. And, if I’m honest, it felt kind of dirty in that sterile hospital room with its bright fluorescent lights, nurses and aides moving about the room, the doctor with his spinning hands. The baby being born. It was all just so weird."
— Molly, 39
“I gyrated my hips to get into the most pleasurable position.”
"When the contractions started, my midwife didn’t believe I was in labor because I was smiling! As they got more intense, I started gyrating my hips to get into the most pleasurable position, almost like I would during sex. I walked outside for a bit, then came back into the hospital room, where I arranged candles, essential oils, and music. I started moaning, dancing, kissing my husband, squatting, and swinging on the sheets hanging from the ceiling as orgasmic waves filled my body.
"Then, I was overcome by an urge to push, so I got on all fours on the bed. Unlike my first birth—where I’d been told to stay on my back and hold my breath while I pushed, and it had lasted 30 tough minutes—the baby came out right away this time. We were amazed by how quickly it happened!"
— Amandine Polovtseva, 32, creator of Amma Soul
“I was on such a high I couldn’t even speak.”
"I gave birth at home, with low lighting, hushed voices, and meditative music, my man and our two dedicated midwives supporting me. I felt safe, private, and able to focus on what was happening with each surge. During one intense surge, during which I roared out loud, my midwife told me that I was bringing my baby down beautifully, which was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. As my partner squeezed my hips to assist me with the intensity of the surges, I reminded myself to breathe deeply and dig deep to ride each peak, moaning with a mixture of pleasure and surrender. I was on such a high I couldn’t even speak. The sensual feeling rippled throughout my body.
"At my midwife’s suggestion, I moved to the shower, soaking in the pleasure of the water against my skin. I felt my baby coming at that moment, and when my midwife suggested I move to the bathroom floor, I said, ‘I can’t!’ lifting my leg and giving birth right there in the shower with one full-bodied, overpowering surge. My midwife passed my baby into my arms and supported me to walk over to the couch, where a gentle nest of blankets and cushions was waiting for me. The whole family gathered around to welcome our baby into the world. Total bliss."
— Shalome Stone, 45, creator of Rockstar Birth Magazine
“My ability to experience pleasure amplified.”
"I had never heard of orgasmic birthing. I didn’t know that was a thing that could happen, so there was no intention set to have an orgasmic birth. I simply arrived into birth the way that I greet my life: I cultivated from a young age the capacity to stay very, very present, even in intense circumstances and conditions. I learned how to open into intensity and keep opening into it and keep moving and evolving.
"When I went into labor, I went into that state where I became absolutely present and actively moving into what people call contractions, but I call them 'rushes' because I didn’t feel contracted. I was actually expanding with each rush; I was meeting it with full presence and opening into it. I was experiencing these profound waves of pleasure, much to my surprise, so [during] the second half of the birth—the second six hours I spent in the tub and the water—I continued this process of spiraling and breathing and being with absolute stillness in between the rushes. At one point, this rush of energy came through, and I was laughing and crying and spiraling, and I was having a full-on, intense full-body orgasm.
"I was like, 'I don’t understand this!' But I just kept going. I just kept surrendering into it, and then on the other side, I was like, 'Wow, that’s possible!' The second time, there was never a point when I was not in ecstasy. Ecstasy is the ability to embrace the full spectrum of our experience, our ability to open into everything. That’s the state I remained in.
"It changed me in fundamental ways. I experienced almost a nervous system upgrade. My ability to experience pleasure amplified. I’d smell a flower and start shaking in ecstasy and pleasure. The wind would shift a certain way and I’d be like, 'Ooh.' It left me in a state of being turned on by life."
— Amber Hartnell, 41