If you’ve never heard the phrase “orgasmic birth,” that’s probably because modern Western society does not usually conceive of childbirth and sexuality together. However, the experience is not unheard of; in one study, midwives reported that they’d witnessed orgasms in one in every 300 births.
The meaning of “orgasmic birth” is broader than having an orgasm during childbirth, however. An orgasmic birth is one that involves sensual pleasure, emotional surrender, and joy, whether or not a sexual climax takes place. Some describe it as a feeling of orgasmic waves rippling through the body, more diffuse and long-lasting than a clitoral orgasm. The idea is not to aim for a climax, but to feel the full intensity of the experience and find bliss in each moment.
The reason most parents experience childbirth differently from this is that our fast-paced culture and medicalized birthing procedures are not in line with the relaxation and somatic attunement that orgasmic birth requires. “I believe in orgasmic birthing, but you can’t just show up to a birthing experience and expect it to go swimmingly if you haven't prepared, if you haven't been working on your pussy to get it open and activated,” says sexuality and embodiment coach Nicole Ambrosia.
As a birth doula, I help people create birth plans that will support their goals for childbirth, whether that is an orgasmic birth or something else. This usually occurs when the person is pregnant, but like Ambrosia, I believe we are best off preparing for orgasmic birth as soon as we can. As childbirth educator Dawn Leonard has said, “we birth the way we live.” So, whether you want to have an orgasmic birth in the near or far future, here are some ways to get started.
1. Contemplate the ideal setting for your birth
It helps to start imagining your birth plan before your pregnancy so that once you are pregnant, you have a clear sense of what resources to seek out. Many people who want orgasmic births opt to give birth at home or at a midwife center rather than in a hospital. “If you look at the conditions at our current hospital environments, how many people would have great orgasms in them?” Debra Pascali-Bonaro, author of Orgasmic Birth: Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying, and Pleasurable Birth Experience, points out.
However, not everyone can afford to give birth outside a hospital covered by their insurance, so you can make due with what’s available to you. “If you choose to give birth in a hospital, you can get yourself into a state of relaxation and feeling good,” says Ambrosia. “I highly recommend creating an environment, a set and setting where there are candles and music to get you in the mood as if you are getting in the mood to have sex.
You want to be lubricated; you want to be aroused; you want to be open and expanded.” And if possible, labor at home until your contractions last at least a minute, happen every five minutes, and continue for an hour. The sooner you go to the hospital, the more rushed you’ll likely feel, and the more interventions the staff will encourage.
2. Devise a sensual birth plan
Beyond the setting, brainstorm elements to add to your birth that will create a pleasurable experience. Some people give birth in hot water, sniff scented essential oils, hire doulas who can massage them and help them breathe deeply, learn hypnosis methods such as those offered by hypnobabies, and/or have partners there to kiss and caress them.
Some people even masturbate with vibrators or their hands while in labor. As you imagine these possibilities, feelings of shame or conflict over mixing birth and sexuality may come up. If this happens, Ambrosia recommends reminding yourself that “it is sex that creates babies! Sex and creation are not separate.”
3. Decide what you’ll do if things get tough
Even if you give birth in the most beautiful setting with lots of pleasure tools available, this does not guarantee that the birth will be easy. Orgasmic birthing proponents recommend avoiding medication if possible because without it, you will be fully present to feel all the sensations taking place.
However, one minimally disruptive medication is laughing gas; it only lasts a few minutes, so it can help you through tough contractions without causing numbness (like an epidural) or drowsiness (like analgesics). There are also many natural pain-relieving tools, such as hot water, TENS machines, massage guns, and birth balls. It can also help to focus on your breathing, move around, and receive touch from others who are present.
If you don’t want medication but are afraid you might ask for it in a desperate moment, you can create a code word — a random word like “marshmallow,” kind of like a safe word in BDSM. The medical team is only to give you medication if you say the code word. Otherwise, if you ask for medication, they can remind you of how strong you are, how far you’ve come already, and how you can get through it. You’ll need to communicate this preference to them beforehand.
Even with these tools at your disposal, things don’t always go according to plan, and sometimes it is necessary to give birth in a hospital and/or utilize interventions such as medications. This does not mean you can’t have an amazing childbirth experience. Try not to get too caught up in whether your birth was “natural”. As my doula trainer Stacey Scarborough imparted to me, it’s not unnatural if you naturally need it.
4. Work on your relationship with fear and discomfort
Many people are freaked out about childbirth, and this fear can create more physical tension and pain. So, having an orgasmic birth may require a change in mindset. “Most people have been taught that pain is something to fear, whereas pain is just a signal,” says Amber Hartnell, a women's embodiment coach who experienced an orgasmic birth herself.
“If we actually learn how to be with our pain and stay present with it, pain actually moves and dissolves. It's not static; it's fluid, and it guides us into something deeper.”
People who have orgasmic births often describe the sensation they experience as intensity rather than pain. Women’s empowerment coach and birth advocate Meghan Hindi describes the sensation she felt during an orgasmic birth as the somatosensory equivalent of tasting spicy food.
“Think of intensity in food, spice, sensuality in the mouth — intense Italian food is like the greatest orgasm in your mouth you could ever have,” she says. To experience this kind of feeling rather than pain, it’s important to welcome in the sensation, breathe through it, and trust that it won’t be too much for you.
5. Use penetrative sex to prepare your vagina and cervix
You can actually prepare for some aspects of childbirth during sex. Ambrosia recommends using a large dildo or practicing fisting in order to get used to having something large in your vagina. “If you do not practice relaxing your vaginal muscles, expanding them, stretching them, relaxing them, and feeling sensual and good and pleasurable about it, it’s not going to be happening when you’re giving birth,” she says.
“Use plenty of coconut oil and go slowly, gently massaging around the labia majora and minora, the clitoris, and then slowly start to work larger and larger dildos or the hand into the vagina.” You can also purchase the Epino Delphin, a pelvic floor exerciser intended to get you accustomed to having progressively larger objects in your vagina.
You might also experiment with cervical pleasure. The reason some people have transcendent experiences during childbirth may be, in part, that cervical stimulation could trigger the release of DMT, according to psychologist Dr. Jenny Martin; DMT has been found in human placentas. You can stimulate your cervix, the nose-like tip of the uterus, by arousing yourself through clitoral stimulation and then penetrating yourself with a dildo. The cervix is where the dildo will stop and can’t go any further. You may want to simply hold it there and breathe into the area before thrusting or moving it.
If you can experience a cervical orgasm, it may feel “like you’re merged with the entire cosmos,” says Martin — and this feeling will be more readily available to you when you give birth.