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“Orgasmic Birth makes such a contribution in this society in which most young women don’t even know they have choices or think that others (doctors) know best. You have taken a major step forward to open minds and hearts in the realm of birthing — future generations will most certainly be grateful.”
Susan Highsmith, Co-Chair XIV International APPPAH Congress
Orgasmic Birth is a documentary that examines the intimate nature of birth, an everyday miracle, and the powerful role it plays in women’s lives when they are permitted to experience it fully. This documentary asks viewers to reexamine everything they thought they knew about giving birth and the potential it holds.
Undisturbed birth is revealed as an integral part of women’s sexuality and a widely neglected human right. Couples share their birth experiences, discussing their fears and how they found the support, nurturing, and ultimately the power and strength within themselves to labor and birth their babies in a beautiful, loving, and ecstatic way.
©2008 Jada Shapiro www.birthdaypresence.net
In the film, world-renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin helps us to understand the normal rhythms of labor and women’s ability to have ecstatic birthing experiences.
It is possible to have an ecstatic birth—in fact, that is the best natural high that I know of. And these states of consciousness are best reached when a woman is fully aware and fully awake. Women don’t have a way to know how their body works until they really try it out in birth. I think that women can be just completely surprised by the change in them from giving birth—you have something powerful in you—that fierce thing comes up—and I think babies need moms to have that fierceness—you feel like you can do anything and that’s the feeling we want moms to have.
Women can experience birth as sensual and pleasurable, and can enter a natural state of ecstasy. New research shows that the intimate experience of birth affects a woman’s life profoundly. Babies are also affected emotionally and physically, and over the long term, by their birth experience.
©2008 Jada Shapiro www.birthdaypresence.net
Orgasmic Birth examines ways in which our current system of care during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period disrupts the normal rhythms of birth and causes a myriad of other problems. Richard Jennings, Director of Midwifery at Bellevue Hospital Birth Center, New York City, says:
The question is, ‘Why not go to a high-risk hospital? No matter what goes wrong, they can deal with it.’ The problem is, as you get higher in the hierarchy, the more they treat every woman as if she is high risk.
According to Maureen Corry, Executive Director of Childbirth Connection, New York City:
Results of the U.S. Listening to Mothers Survey demonstrate that technology-intensive birth is the norm, with a majority of women reporting each of the following interventions while giving birth: electronic fetal monitoring, intravenous drip, artificially ruptured membranes, artificial oxytocin to strengthen contractions, and epidural analgesia.
Although a small percentage of births benefit from the use of technology and surgery, the overuse of technology in hospital births today often causes more harm than good. The U.S. cesarean section rate for 2006 was 30.1%, well above what researchers consider safe and appropriate use. Women today, trusting that all offered techniques and procedures are safe, eagerly accept epidural analgesia for pain relief and artificial oxytocin to induce or augment labor. However, these drugs and procedures have many negative short-term and long-term effects on mother and baby that should be considered and questioned. With almost one in three American women having a surgical birth, our experts look at the current data and discuss the risks that overuse of cesarean section is causing to mothers and babies.
Marsden Wagner, MD, former Director of Women’s and Children’s Health for the World Health Organization, is concerned about the increased inducing of labor. He says in the film:
Very clear hard evidence in the last 10 years [shows that] the number of women who are induced—that is, their labor is kick-started—is doubling. You kick-start labor by giving them a powerful drug. And then you give them more drugs to keep the labor going. Now, there are about five to ten percent of women in which there's a good medical reason to do this, and you’re saving lives and all that. But if you go above ten percent, you’re not saving lives anymore. These are powerful drugs with all kinds of risks, including brain damage to the baby, a dead baby, a dead woman. And yet we do it twice as much [as we used to]. And there’s so much pain in induction—incredible pain. And so they have to come with all the pain relief and the epidurals and all of that. So we get induction, leading to epidural, which leads to cesarean. And that is what’s happening in this country. Now, why? Did something happen? Did American women’s bodies suddenly go bad? Did American women’s bodies suddenly lose the ability to figure out when it’s time to go into labor? Goodness, no! You know, why do 60 to 80 percent of American women have to have powerful drugs and interventions to their bodies? Well, it has nothing to do with there being anything wrong with their body. And it’s not because of bad doctors. It's a bad system.
Four percent of American women who give birth experience post-traumatic stress disorder after labor and birth. Nearly one in five women and, by extension, their families experience the long-term effects of postpartum depression.
Christiane Northrup, MD, a visionary in the field of women’s health and wellness and a board-certified obstetrician–gynecologist, shares her expertise and insight throughout the film. Regarding postpartum depression, she says:
I want women to know that if you’ve had a cesarean birth, an induction, or an epidural, that doesn’t mean you’re not going to bond with your baby or you can’t love this baby, or any of that. Humans are incredibly adaptable. But why adapt if you don’t have to—if you can let your body do what it was designed to do? I believe that the connection between overuse of intervention and postpartum depression is enormous. If women experienced the ecstasy of birth, they would have the high that would get them through the hormonal changes of the next week. Your body and your inner wisdom give you that high.
Brazilian obstetrician Ricardo Jones, MD, discusses the process of giving birth and the role of a physician in that process:
There is a space within our culture for medical interventions. That is why doctors are important in reducing maternal and prenatal mortality. At the same time, we have to honor the traditions of millions of women throughout the world and throughout history. Women have the inner power and the inner knowledge of giving birth. There is a parallel of sexuality and giving birth. Women who are giving birth, trust yourselves. Trust your inner power. Trust your ability to give life. This is something absolutely sacred that is inside all women in the world. A doctor, nurse, and all midwives in the world are people who are not in the position to teach a woman how to give birth, but to make it easier for her to do what she already knows how to do.
Orgasmic Birth captures intimate home births as well as normal births with midwives in US hospitals. With the decrease in hospital-based midwifery practices in the United States, the option for normal hospital birth is gradually disappearing in many communities. We look at other models of midwifery care, such as in New Zealand and the Netherlands—models that have achieved some of the lowest rates of maternal and infant mortality in the world.
Dr. Wagner discusses how a midwifery model of care is cost effective while contributing to a safe and positive birth for mothers, babies, and families:
More and more countries are losing fewer women and losing fewer babies than the US, including Cuba and Slovenia. Countries that we would normally expect not to have such a great record are losing fewer women and fewer babies than we are. And it’s not because we have bad doctors. We have highly trained, very good doctors, as good as anywhere in the world. We have good nurses—as good as any. We don’t have enough midwives! We have 40,000 obstetricians and 5,000 midwives. Great Britain has 1,000 obstetricians and 35,000 midwives, and they lose fewer women and babies than we do.
Ina May Gaskin believes the reason lies in our past:
The United States has a peculiar history about childbirth. There is a higher level of fear of birth in this country than we see in so many cultures around the world. I think it has to do with our own peculiar history of absolutely destroying the profession of midwifery in the early twentieth century. When you destroy midwives, you also destroy a body of knowledge that is shared by women, that can’t be put together by a bunch of surgeons or a bunch of male obstetricians, because physiologically, birth doesn’t happen the same way around surgeons, medically trained doctors, as it does around sympathetic women.
Pain, endorphins, comfort techniques, water, doulas, epidurals: Orgasmic Birth views women’s options for labor and birth and examines the risks and benefits.
Dr. Northrup describes the power felt by a woman who has experienced a natural birth:
When women understand what’s available to us at birth, then we won’t ever give that over to an expert” the birth power, the orgasmic power that’s in our bodies. When you meet a woman who has had an ecstatic birth, you can’t talk her into taking drugs that aren’t good for her body. You can’t talk her into a hysterectomy that she doesn’t need. You can’t talk her into a crummy diet. She’s come home to her body. She knows what this body is capable of. She loves this body. This body loves her. And there’s nothing like the transformation available at birth to nail that in there in such a way that she becomes illuminated, because she’s a channel for life. And then she becomes a channel for life in all its forms.
Join us as we watch the families in the film welcome their babies into the world and see what happens when mothers, babies, fathers, and families are left undisturbed to welcome their newborns into their arms. Worldwide research supports the fact that the best, safest care for healthy full-term newborns is in their mothers’ arms, skin to skin, breastfeeding, feeling safe and nurtured.
Carrie Contey, PhD, a leader in the field of prenatal and perinatal psychology, says:
What we’re finding is that it does matter—it absolutely does matter—how somebody comes into the world. And it doesn’t mean all babies should be born this way or that way. It just means that we have to pay attention and recognize that those babies are having experiences. And the way that birth happens when it’s left to happen naturally, without drugs and without forceps, is really what the baby’s body is expecting. There’s a biological readying that’s happening. So it’s incredibly important that we start thinking about this time period in a new way, and we start caring for moms and babies and families around the birth experience in much more thoughtful and mindful ways than we are doing right now.
Orgasmic Birth encourages viewers examine their perceptions about childbirth and to consider issues that are crucial to the health and well-being of future generations.
The way a woman gives birth has the potential to change how she feels about herself forever.
The way she feels has consequences for how she mothers and cares for her baby. It has consequences for her other relationships and for society.
All babies deserve to be welcomed into their mothers’ arms with love and respect.
To learn how to host a screening of this remarkable film, click here.
Debra Pascali Bonaro is the director of Orgasmic Birth and co-author of the book Orgasmic Birth, Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience. Debra helps birth pros and new families all over the world learn about the details of gentle birth. Visit www.debrapascalibonaro.com to join in a webinar, attend a destination workshop and learn more about natural childbirth.