#123 | Trisha Mini: Orgasmic Birth: What is it and How Does it Work?

September 13, 2021

What does it really mean to have an orgasmic birth?  Sure, you might have a “birthgasim,” but more likely you’ll feel the ecstasy of the physiological birth process. In today’s minisode, Trisha walks us through the complex interplay of hormones that brings us to ecstasy in birth and what it takes to get there.

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Connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

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Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

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View Episode Transcript

Hey all. It's Trisha and I am here today on this minisode Monday to talk to you about a very exciting topic. And that is orgasmic birth. Have you ever thought about it wondered about it? I'm sure you have. I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want birth to be orgasmic. And yes, women do actually report having orgasms in labor. In fact, they call them birth chasms. In all honesty, I can't say I have experienced a birth gasm. And I'm not really sure that I've even truly seen one. But I would still call my birth orgasmic. And I would call them orgasmic because my bursts were truly ecstatic, at least the second and third. The first was probably a little too long, and I was a little too exhausted to really reach that state of ecstasy. But nonetheless, ecstatic birth is not what everyone experiences. However, it is absolutely possible and it is absolutely within reach for anyone who wants to experience. An ecstatic birth by definition is a birth that takes you out of your usual state of mind. And the definition of ecstasy is a heightened awareness, a state of mind beyond reason, a sense of feeling in a trance of feeling transformed. And seriously, what is an orgasm if not described, like ecstasy. So if you've been following along with our podcast for a while, you know that we believe very much that birth has a lasting impact on a mother and a baby, that it is a true rite of passage in life. And that a positive and satisfying birth experience is transformative and powerful in the most impactful and inspiring way for mothers. And we know that an undisturbed birth creates just this kind of experience. But for birth to reach the level of ecstasy, it requires a complex interplay of hormones that must be just rights. These hormones include oxytocin, beta, endorphins, epinephrine and norepinephrine, also known as the fight or flight hormones, and prolactin. These hormones work together beautifully, to create an ecstatic birth. But the environment must support the ability of these hormones to work together in this way. The environment should be quiet, dark, calm, relaxing, and low stress. All of these hormones are significantly impacted by stressful events, bright lights, disruptions, louder expected sounds, strangers, even unknown energy, certainly medications, interventions, even just checking your blood pressure, putting in an IV, asking you about your pain. All of these things can be interruptions that can impact how these hormones work together. Alright, so let's get into the hormone specifically, we're going to break it down by the four different kinds of hormones that are involved in an ecstatic birth. We will begin with oxytocin the most well known of all the birth hormones, it is the hormone of love. oxytocin is released anytime we feel love connection or bonding. It is not only the hormone responsible for making babies, but also for birthing babies and breastfeeding babies and bonding with our babies. It is absolutely essential that we have peak levels of oxytocin for labor to progress effectively and efficiently. Of course, this is also the hormone that we are trying to augment or support or replace when we are inducing or augmenting labor with Pitocin. Oxytocin is also necessary for your baby and labor as it actually protects your baby's brain from compromised when contractions are intense, and the uterus is restricting blood flow to your baby. oxytocin levels will remain high throughout labor and be high immediately after birth, which helps us to expel the placenta and it helps to create the perfect environment of calming connection for bonding with your baby immediately after birth and initiating breastfeeding. The next important hormone and less are talked about are the beta endorphins. So the beta endorphins are the natural opiates that are released in an undisturbed labor. These act very similar to the drugs Demerol and morphine. They are natural painkillers and they can create a feeling of euphoria, sort of like what a runner experiences during a runner's high.


These are the drugs actually, they are like drugs but they're not drugs. These are the natural drugs, our innate pain relieving system that helps us to experience what we would consider a pain free birth. And when we say pain free we don't mean devoid of strong sensation we birth is going to be intense birth is going to be at times difficult. Birth is going to feel uncomfortable. but it doesn't have to feel like pain. And it's these hormones that help differentiate us from feeling the true pain of a problem in our body versus the intensity and discomfort of a natural, intense feeling in our body that is helping its pain with purpose, and the beta endorphins help us remember that and help us transcend that in birth. So we really need our beta endorphins working for us in labor. And similarly to the catecholamines are the stress hormones. With beta endorphins get too high, which can be also impacted by stress or fear, it too can inhibit our oxytocin. So the next hormones are the fight or flight hormones, the catecholamines or best known as the stress hormones. These are the hormones that we really want to keep at low levels in early labor and active labor. If you actually listen to Cynthia's mini on how fear affects labor, she talked a lot about the catecholamine effect. So I won't go into it as much here. But these hormones at the wrong time and in too high amounts can slow stall or stop your labor, and they are heavily impacted by fear and stress. So I'm going to talk about where they are important in labor. And that is in the final stage of labor. In the end of labor, we actually want our catecholamines to increase. A high increase in the catecholamines is responsible for what's called the fetal ejection reflex. This occurs as the baby is descending through the birth canal and just before the baby is born, and the spike in these hormones will actually give the mother an extra surge of energy, like putting her back into all cylinders firing after her long labor, she sort of we'll get this rapid spike in energy to help her baby get out quickly, because this is the most precarious time of birth. So without that spike passage through the birth canal can take longer, it may be less effective, and it might lead to the possibility of an assisted delivery by forceps or vacuum. A mother will know that she's experienced the spiking catecholamines, because immediately after birth, her body will feel suddenly Cold, shivering and shaking. And this is a totally normal response to a high spike in catecholamines, followed by a sudden drop. So what has been observed in bursts that are disturbed, or highly inventive is that sometimes this fetal ejection reflex doesn't occur. Sometimes this late spike in catecholamines doesn't occur, possibly because catecholamines have been higher throughout the labor that we don't know, but it could be presumed. And this is yet another really important reason for protecting the hormonal cascade of hormones and an undisturbed birth. So the last but not least hormone that is necessary in labor is prolactin. And while prolactin is primarily a hormone of breastfeeding, it does also play a role in labor. And its role in labor is to help mothers to have a heightened sense of awareness. And it triggers the protective mother bear instincts. And this persists beyond birth. As anybody who's had a baby knows that in those first weeks and months after your baby is born, you are extremely sensitive to sound, movement, anything related to your baby. And we know that that Mother Bear instinct is very real, very important and essential to motherhood. So these are the hormones involved in an ecstatic birth. And an ecstatic or even orgasmic birth is absolutely possible. And it's most possible when the woman feels safe and trusting of her birth environment when disruptions are minimized, or few and when she is left to let her incredibly intelligent body and hormonal system do the job that it knows how to do. Thank you as always for being part of this community. And we look forward to joining you again on Wednesday.


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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood.

You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). 

To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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