Birth is a sexual act. This statement may make some of you uncomfortable, but regardless it is true. Looking at the hormones involved in both sex and childbirth, it becomes impeccably clear that humans have the right tools to feel pleasure during the birth of their children, and from seeing dozens of couples birth babies this Edmonton doula can absolutely tell the difference between those who are comfortable being intimate and those who are not. I say we need to start educating people on how sex plays a part in all aspects of childbearing, so that expecting parents can avoid feeling shameful or strange if they feel sexual feelings in this time when it may have previously been perceived as “wrong”.
Lets start by looking at one of the very basic facets of birth: the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is coined “the love hormone” as it is what creates the feeling of falling in love. Butterflies, goosebumps, feeling completely attached to someone’s soul… all of that good stuff is made possible because of this wonderful hormone. There are a number of hormones that cause physical orgasm, but can you guess what one of them is? Oxytocin! When you achieve that lovely, magical, big O, you are feeling the surge of oxytocin and various endorphins rushing through your blood. And this, my friend, is how babies are made 😉 Going further into this, is the fact that orgasms often cause involuntary muscle contractions in various areas – particularly in females, they cause rhythmic contractions about 0.8 seconds apart for around 15 to 30 seconds. Sounds familiar doesn’t it…
Looking at birth, you may already know that oxytocin is what causes your uterus to contract. But what you probably didn’t know, is that the other hormones I mentioned in the previous paragraph, endorphins, are also released during a contraction to help stimulate relaxation and reduce a pain response. So my friends, contractions and orgasms are chemically the same process! Woah!
Ok let’s go even deeper (pun intended, hee hee) into how similar contractions and orgasms are. Have you ever been disrupted while self-pleasuring? Im not embarrassed to admit that I have, and I can attest to what you probably are all thinking – it sucks! You get this sudden feeling of anxiety, shakiness, and wanting to run and hide, very similar to when you are put in a high-stress situation like coming close to a car accident or someone frightening you very suddenly and abruptly. This feeling is caused by adrenaline… our “fight or flight” hormone that’s secreted in order for us to direct enough energy to survive whatever is threatening us. When adrenaline is released in large amounts, oxytocin can’t flow and therefore pleasure has no room to exist. That feeling that I just described is actually what birthing people feel when they aren’t given the space to be primitive and physiological in their birth space. Its our brain’s way of saying “let’s just continue this somewhere more private”. So contractions stall out and labour takes a break until we can feel more intimate and safe. What soooo many expectant parents don’t know beforehand and what I, an Edmonton doula, want to tell you is that letting go of those inhibitions is what it really takes to have a physiological childbirth. Your body and your primal self do not care about what society thinks about being vulnerable or sexual during labour – your labour will not continue progressing naturally without the optimal setting – a safe, comfortable, ambient space and supportive, non-judgemental and non-controlling people around you.
I’ve noticed as I’m attending more and more births as a doula in Edmonton, that the toughest thing to overcome is trying to birth in a hospital when you land a team of care providers that you don’t feel comfortable with. Some of the staff at the hospitals in my area are wonderful for allowing you the private space to work through labour without trying to intervene… but some really don’t do this well. Perhaps they don’t believe that birth is more of a natural process than it is a medical one, or maybe some are bound by hospital policy and fear of losing their jobs. Whatever the reason, many medical professionals take a more “hands on” approach and are either constantly with you and offering up their unwanted advice on how you should get through your labour, or demanding that you follow a specific procedure without a full explanation of the risks and benefits of what they are wanting to do. Never are these individuals ill-willed, it’s just simply a lack of understanding or belief of the power of a truly physiological birth. This is something that I, as a doula in Edmonton, struggle deeply with. It is not an issue that can be easily resolved as our entire healthcare system has been taught to believe that their standard procedures are correct – more correct than a birthing persons ability to follow their own body and act while fully in tune.
So how to we go about changing the verbiage around not just sexuality during your birth, but sex as being “shameful” in general? Well I believe that drawing these parallels to sex and birth, both being instinctive parts of human nature, can help people to realize that they are not in fact shameful. Being open about talking about sex and birth, alone or together can help others to feel more comfortable over time.
How did you feel while reading this post? Did you feel comfortable or not? I encourage you to explore why you had the reaction you did and how society has maybe impacted that!