We were driving to our local farmer’s market when my friend Michelle dropped the bombshell that she had an orgasm during labour.
I almost drove us off the road.
“I said to my husband, I think I’m going to come!” Michelle said.
“What!?” I said.
Michelle revealed to me that she hadn’t told too many people about this scientific phenomenon because she was unsure of how it would be received.
It’s not quite the sensation you would envisage while birthing your beloved offspring. I laughed and told her, “Well while you were orgasming during labour, I was yelling ‘this is so f***ed!’” Because, let’s face it, birth is not usually synonymous with having a good time. But what my friend says is absolutely true. Orgasming during labour is a thing.
And I’m not talking about using sex toys or playing around with your partner in order to take your focus off the pain of birth. This is about a woman experiencing an orgasm naturally as she is giving birth to her child. However, when it comes to explaining why this natural phenomenon occurs, things can get a little more complex.
Some say it could be due to the position of the baby in the vaginal canal, giving the same sensation a penis would give as it rubs a woman’s G-spot or vulva, for example. You know, the way a lucky few of us can experience an orgasm “inside” and not via the clitoris. Others cite rushes of blood or perhaps the release of the hormone oxytocin, otherwise known as “the love hormone”.
Michelle, a Sunshine Coast massage therapist, explained the feeling as cramps and orgasm combined. “Of course I still felt all the pain,” Michelle says of the feeling that occurred in the last hour or two of birth.
“It must have been the pressure on my spot, who knows! I just felt it went on forever and was definitely pleasurable, but not so much in a sexual way, more in a sensual ‘I'm woman and I'm kicking ass right now' way," Michelle said.
“I did a lot of meditation and focus before the birth and sent a lot of female energy to my vagina. It was kind of funny to be honest, but I can't say I was surprised. All I know is I didn't move because I didn't want the sensation to stop and then my legs went numb – then pins and needles," Michelle continued.
Australian obstetrician/gynaecologist (OBGYN) and media personality, Dr Gino Pecoraro, says while orgasms are complicated and can depend on how a person is wired as to how their body reacts to an orgasm, the idea of women experiencing an orgasmic sensation during labour has “biological plausibility”. Dr Pecoraro believes they are most likely due to the amount of activity occurring in the genital area.
“Labour is genital-centric. The body is thinking about genitals and there’s an increase in blood flow, and an increase in pressure on the uterus, and labour’s rhythmic contractions,” Dr Pecoraro says. “Women can have intense sexual feelings during labour and delivery, but it’s not something women necessarily want to talk about. People are conditioned that there’s a right and a wrong time to be sexually excited. Orgasm for most people is an intensely private thing.”
Brisbane OBGYN Dr Stephen Elgey says solid data on the number of women who experience orgasm during labour is difficult to access, but some put it at around 0.3 per cent or one in 300. “We probably really don’t know the true number because we are reluctant to ask, and many women may be reluctant to tell due to the fear of stigmatisation, as it is a subject many people are not comfortable discussing," Dr Elgey said.
Dr Elgey says orgasms during birth could be due to the innervation of the vagina and cervix responding to the stretching caused by the passage of the baby, in a similar way to that of the penis during intercourse, bringing feelings of pleasure to some women.
“This may be more likely in women who do experience vaginal orgasms... and it’s also possible that the pushing past the clitoris of the baby’s head could also cause stimulation," he said.
Dr Elgey says it’s largely unknown whether the release of hormones that are associated with sexual pleasure such as oxytocins, contribute to the orgasm. “It may be that some women are more able to perceive the sensations as pleasurable due to differing sexual experiences and feelings," he explained.
As for Michelle, she believes birth is not celebrated enough as the epitome of femininity in our culture. “I find that very disturbing. Almost like being pregnant is an illness and birth is barbaric. If we celebrated our vaginas more the world would be a better place," she said.
Did you orgasm during birth? Do you know anyone who has?