Can Giving Birth Actually Be Pleasurable?

Masters and Johnson data demonstrate that the uterine contractions in orgasm have the same recorded pattern as those of the first stage of labor--differing only in intensity. Caressing the breasts, in fact, can get a slowed labor going again by stimulating uterine contractions.

When women are not fearful or anxious and have a supportive environment, passionate emotions are released and sensory perceptions are heightened--just as they are during intercourse. Regardless of how much pain is endured, once into the second stage of labor--the pushing stage--many women report pleasure. In the early 1980s, British researchers confirmed that women who give birth without anesthesia suffer more pain than anesthetized women do, but they also experience greater pleasure.

As Northwestern University's Niles Newton, Ph.D. points out, pain and pleasure are not opposites. It's quite possible to experience intense pain and pleasure at the same time. Clearly, reactions to labor vary from woman to woman, pregnancy to pregnancy, and one woman's pleasure will be another's unrelenting pain.

"In my first birth I was literally screaming for something, but my doctor told me it was too late -- the baby would be born in 5 to 15 minutes. Bless his heart! The euphoria and high after that was something else. Better than after the best sex!"
-- Mother in Washington

"I think you have too much emphasis on how pleasurable childbirth is without a proper balance of the reality of pain. I didn't find it so wonderful physically. Emotionally, yes, but physically sometimes it can be really hard and hurt."
-- Mother in Texas

Just as more sexual experience will enhance your physical capacity for sexual pleasure, pregnancy all by itself--regardless of what kind of labor and birth you had-- will do the same. M.J. Sherfey, M.D. reports that in all women, as long as obstetric damage doesn't intervene, pregnancy brings an increase in the volume of blood flow in the pelvis, enhances the capacity for sexual tension, and improves orgasmic intensity, frequency, and pleasure.

The similarities between lovemaking and breastfeeding are also strong. During both, the uterus contracts, the nipples become erect, the breasts receive extensive stimulation, and the skin flushes. Soon after a baby is put to the breast, a letdown sensation brings the milk to the infant. While the hormone oxytocin is responsible for this milk-ejection reflex, nursing mothers don't usually have orgasms when their milk lets down, though some occasionally report they do. However, nearly all nursing moms describe a feeling of well-being. For a first-time mother, however, it may take a couple of months before she can recognize the letdown sensation.

It is common for breast milk to leak from a mother during lovemaking. Some mothers then worry that there won't be enough milk for the baby's next feeding--but women find that there will be. While some couples find milk-filled breasts an added sexual pleasure, others don't. Of course, either reaction is normal.

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