Giving Birth: The Pleasure Principle

Rewarding Brain Chemicals. As in marathon races, birth requires enormous physical, mental and emotional energy. Labor, like a long race almost over, can cause excruciating pain, but our bodies offer a reward -- brain chemicals -- for this exertion. These chemicals, called endorphins or beta- endorphins, are narcotic-like pain killers that circulate in the bloodstream. These natural opiates are released by hard exercise, which can be, for example, vigorous walking, running, and cycling. Some researchers speculate that this chemical release explains the euphoria that joggers call "runner's high." The cramping pains of childbirth release endorphins, and the grimacing and grunting many women do, according to research with weight lifters, release endorphins as well.

Sexual feelings will vary in any woman, whether during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. In any case, it is important to broaden your knowledge about your sexual self, and expand your appreciation of your body. But remember that whatever you feel, whatever you want, is right for you.

A Good Birth, A Safe Birth by Diana Korte and Roberta Scaer, 3rd edition, Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA, 1992 This excerpt is reprinted with permission and is copyright protected under international copyright conventions. This excerpt may not be reproduced in any manner, including electronic, without prior written permission from the publisher.

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