3 min
October 16, 2022

An Orgasmic Birth?

Some women orgasm while giving birth.

They might facilitate it by stimulating their clitoris during labor. I can’t imagine having the energy or desire to do this, but I suppose if you told me that if I masturbated all the pain would go away, I’m sure I’d be inclined to give it my best shot. Others have never heard of this phenomenon and are surprised when they experience one.

I did not orgasm during labor. But amidst the worst pain I have ever felt in my life I did experience some temporary moments of relief. 

Here’s what happened:

After pushing for an hour my baby was close. The doctor told me I was about to experience “the ring of fire” and it was going to be really painful. As if everything up until that moment hadn’t been the most excruciating pain I’d ever felt, I didn’t understand how it could get worse. 

But it did. 

While each contraction was horrible, I’d at least get a minute or so to catch my breath before the next one. But during the ring of fire, Baby’s head was crowning, so that reprieve in between contractions no longer existed. I had a baby’s head coming out of my vagina and it fucking burned like hell. The name fit. I thrashed around on my back, unable to stay still, wanting to push just so I didn’t have to sit through the pain. 

As I could feel the contraction coming I took a deep breath, which hurt like a stabbing knife to my insides. When I’d start pushing the pain would worsen, worsen, worsen. Right when the pain got to be its absolute worst and I was completely red in the face because I was also holding my breath, it suddenly felt good.

So I had this feeling of relief but I was also holding my breath, pushing as hard as I could, completely and utterly exhausted with nothing left to give. I wanted the good feeling to last, but I knew I couldn’t hold my breath forever. I also knew that as soon as I stopped, the ring of fire would return.

It brought back memories as a kid of climbing the rope in gym class. I would be so tired, pulling myself up the rope, using all my strength to lift myself, and then sometimes I’d feel the rush of a “good feeling.” It was like I was having an orgasm before I knew what an orgasm was. It felt so good that I would sometimes climb the rope on our tree swing in the backyard in hopes of feeling the feeling. When I did, I’d stop and hang there, holding my breath. Again, I knew it would only last as long as I held my breath, so it was short lived.

This is what it was like during birth, except the pleasure was sandwiched by immense pain. And the pain was so bad that I didn’t even think of it as pleasure. I only thought of it as a moment of temporary relief. There was also nothing sexual about it. I had my husband, doctor, and about five other people staring at my vagina telling me to push. And when I did push, there was blood and bodily fluid and poop coming out of my body. 

One woman who shared her experience on Reddit most closely described how I felt:

“I had an orgasm in labor. It wasn't via masturbation. It just happened. But it was not a sensual wave of relaxed delight. It was the brief intensity of the physical orgasm, plus the intensity of pain. Like being mid-gasm and breaking your toe.”

It’s important to note that the pain to pleasure ratio was somewhere around 9 to 1, but to feel any relief after 12 hours of labor was worth it. How many things in life do we suffer through pain to experience pleasure? 

Athletes put themselves through extreme physical duress to achieve greatness. Without the grueling hard work, would it be as rewarding? 

Same goes for sex. Think of Paul Giamatti’s character in Billions. Chuck Rhoades plays a submissive to his wife Wendy. He begs her to torture him because it turns him on. Maybe he takes it a little far, but I know I love when my husband gets a little Christian Grey on me in the bedroom. 

It’s because of the pain that all senses are heightened and the pleasure is so enjoyable. Research has shown that “sensations of pain and pleasure activate the same neural mechanisms in the brain. ...the ‘high’ experienced by people who find painful sensations sexually arousing is similar to that experienced by athletes as they push their bodies to the limit.”

I certainly don’t suggest that any woman hope or plan for a spontaneous orgasm during birth. What I do suggest is that pain often leads to wonderful things

Maybe it’s not even in the moment. Maybe a broken heart eventually leads to the right partner. Maybe living with too many roommates and cockroaches makes you so appreciative when you can finally afford your own clean place. Maybe the death of a loved one gets you to show other people in your life how much you love and care for them.

And maybe this is why so many women don’t talk about how torturous giving birth is (because it is - it really, really is). It’s not the 0.3 percent who have experienced an orgasm. It’s every woman who has held her baby in her arms and decided it was all worth it. Because it is - it really, really is.