Saturday, March 24, 2007

Birth: A HIS-story

This email is posted with permission:

Dear Tina,

Greetings and Blessings!

I have been reading your profound and magnificent book and came across my son's name so decided to contact you. I am Patrick (Lighthouse) Houser. My son, Jeremy, was born in 1980, in water. He is now 26. Lighthouse was a "stage" name at the time and no longer used.

In these last months I have begun an initiative called Fathers-To-Be, see website.

What I thought was to be a series of workshops has become an initiative. My first book is being edited now, The Fathers-To-Be Handbook.

In 1998 I moved to England and began working with my new wife, Binnie Dansby(see, in birth related work here. We live in the Kent countryside. Have also read your blog. Binnie also had an orgasmic birth with her second child.

I have no real motive in contacting you except that I am sure our paths are meant to cross in various ways.

Please have a visit to my site and check out the YouTube presentation, technology and the internet is soooo wonderful.

many blessings on you and your work,


Please enjoy and

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Check out the how-to tips at the end

This news flash from The Independent (UK)
Published: 20 March 2007

How to have a sensual, drug-free birth
Forget epidurals. Midwives say they can train women to have births that are not only drug-free, but pleasurable - and even orgasmic. Anastasia Stephens reports

For Katrina Caslake, giving birth was not the terrifying, painful ordeal most women experience. Far from it. The midwife, from Wallington, south London, says she found it blissful, even orgasmic. "I found giving birth very sensual," says Caslake, 44, who didn't take painkillers for the birth of either of her sons, Aaron and Tomas, now 18 and 17.

"All my erogenous zones were stimulated. I was making sounds very similar to a sexual climax. And it was a very definite climax. I was doing the most feminine thing a woman can do and it felt fantastic."

It's a sentiment with which Frederika Deera, a PR officer at John Lewis in London, would agree. She had a similar experience giving birth to her two-year-old daughter Delphine.

"Giving birth filled me with the most indescribable euphoria," says Deera, who gave birth at a midwife-led unit in Portsmouth. "Of course there was pain, but my overall sense was of peace and happiness. I was on a complete high, so much that even having a major suturing afterwards did not bother me at all."

It was her "pleasurable experience" that led Caslake to train as a midwife. "I knew I wasn't unique," says Caslake, who helps run Yours Maternally, an independent midwifery service. "By encouraging other women to trust and relax in their bodies, I felt I could help them experience less painful, more pleasurable births."

It's an approach that's also encouraged at the Birth Centre in south London where midwife Nathalie Mottershead actively encourages sensual birth.

"If couples are willing, nipple and clitoral massage can be used to bring on labour contractions, open the cervix and vagina and help with pain relief," she says.

More to the point, the approach is capable of transforming birth - perceived by most women to be terrifyingly painful - into a pleasurable, even, ecstatic experience. "We work closely with women so they can give birth at home, in intimate surroundings. If mothers-to-be are open to feeling sexy, labour can be pleasurable, not painful, and it sometimes builds up to a crescendo at birth."

It's not as if the techniques used at the Birth Centre are isolated or rare.

"If a woman is comfortable enough to do nipple or clitoral stimulation during birth, it's a useful trick for pain relief and inducing labour," says Andrya Prescott, spokesperson for the Independent Midwives Association.

A visit to the Unassisted Childbirth Organisation's US website confirms just how erotic childbirth can be. The site describes in graphic detail women's fantasies in which romantic and sexual union leads to "blissful waves of pleasure", and "cosmic orgasms" at the point of birth. More women, it seems, get turned on by birth than you'd think. When Ina May Gaskin, a US midwife, conducted a poll of 151 women, 32 reported experiencing at least one orgasmic birth. Admittedly, these were home births by women who were "open" to the experience. The plus points are pretty significant - a single orgasm is thought to be 22 times as relaxing as the average tranquilliser, while sexual arousal widens the vagina significantly.

"Women might think twice about having an epidural if they knew that, but nobody talk about these things," points out Gaskin, a natural childbirth pioneer who was the first midwife to openly acknowledge that women could climax at birth.

It almost sounds too good to be true: a touchy-feely labour followed by an earth-shattering orgasm at the moment of birth. Unfortunately, this is very far removed from most women's description of childbirth. A major hitch is that, as with any sexual activity, the amount of pleasure gained - for women at least - is closely related to the degree of relaxation, trust and safety she feels.

Most women anticipate with dread the "birth ordeal", a state of mind that will make muscles contract and adrenalin levels rise before it even begins. And then, most women can only feel sexy in intimate surroundings, with people they know well. Hospitals and doctors don't really do the trick.

"Adrenalin inhibits sex drive and labour contractions," says midwife Andrya Prescott. "You become tense and are more prone to feeling pain. It's why women can have trouble with labour and birth at hospital. Surrounded by strangers, their adrenalin levels are high. They can't relax. Even if they were open to getting aroused, at a hospital, they may as well forget it."

Part of the problem, it seems, is the way sexuality around childbirth has been denied. In her book, Ina May's Guide To Childbirth, Gaskin points out that doctors had to downplay female sexuality for medical men to be admitted to the birth chambers of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. This " denial" was later institutionalised when hospital births became routine.

Even today, it's a pretty taboo subject. "Lots of women would worry they'd be seen as abnormal or deviant if they admitted to feeling sexual at birth," says Carolyn Cowan, a yoga teacher and doula based in south London, who herself had an ecstatic birth. "It's something lots of women feel ashamed to talk about," she adds. "I run erotic dance classes for pregnant women to try to get rid of these inhibitions. I should know a thing or two - it took giving birth to my son to discover my G-spot."

The tide is clearly turning. A growing number of obstetricians and midwives point out what seems pretty obvious, yet has been somehow forgotten - that since sex leads to pregnancy and birth, they're pretty closely linked.

"When you look at sex, birth and lactation, the same hormones are involved," says Michel Odent, the obstetrician who pioneered the use of birthing pools in the Seventies. "It seems obvious that childbirth is a part of a woman's sexuality."

Many parents-to-be, for example, find that making love and nipple stimulation are one of the best ways to get labour going. That's because sexual arousal releases oxytocin, a love and bonding hormone, which triggers orgasmic and labour contractions in the uterus. Conveniently, this hormone is an endorphin, meaning it has an opiate-like effect - inducing pleasure while acting as a highly effective painkiller.

Aside from the pleasure and pain relief, the advantage of a sensual birth is less physical damage. "Women who are relaxed and feel good, undergo easier, smoother births, so suffer less tearing and bruising," says Caslake. "Fear makes a woman more tense and this holds the baby back."

The baby gets a pleasure hit too - bathed in "feel-good" hormones, they're more likely to come out feeling relaxed and content. (for more info on love hormones); (for more info on sensual birth); (020-7820 6661);; for sensual prenatal exercises contact Carolyn Cowan (020-7701 3845;; Yours Maternally Independent Midwives, Wallington, south London (; 020-8401 9501)

How to have a pleasurable birth

Why some women achieve a "birth climax" while others endure excruciating pain is likely to be due to differences in environment, genetics, expectations, and psychological factors. Trust and the level of emotional support you feel from your partner or midwife is critical in inducing a feeling of safety and relaxation needed to get the "pleasure hormones" going.

Women are generally more likely to have sensual birth experiences during home deliveries in an intimate environment. Midwives who have witnessed women who've been physically aroused during childbirth believe the following techniques could make the experience more likely:

* Before and during childbirth, become intimate with your body. Look at yourself naked in the mirror, noticing any areas that trigger uncomfortable emotions. Send loving thoughts to that area until the difficult feelings pass. Ask your partner to look at your body and compliment you.

* If you feel comfortable with it, aim for a home birth.

* Work closely with a doula or midwife to build up a sense of trust with her, in your body and in the birth process.

* Ask yourself if you can believe that your body will be doing the right thing, to the best of its ability, to give birth successfully. The more you can believe this, the more you'll be able to trust yourself and relax.

* Pick a special room or area where you want to give birth. Light candles to create atmosphere and evaporate lavender essential oil in an oil burner to induce relaxation.

* Learn a relaxation method such as abdominal breathing or self-hypnosis to use during childbirth to curb the release of stress hormones.

* Create the expectation that childbirth could be pleasurable, even if there is pain: while pregnant, spend time imagining how it could trigger warm tingling sensations in your body along with feelings of love.

* If you feel it is appropriate, ask your partner to kiss you, stroke you gently or even caress your nipples as labour contractions come on.

So much for the above post

Painful Sex Common After Giving Birth

March 20, 2007
(WebMD) Painful sex may affect nearly a third of women in the first year after they give birth, a new study suggests.

The researchers included Rebecca Knibb, Ph.D., senior lecturer at England's University of Derby.

They mailed questionnaires to 2,100 women in England who had given birth within the past year. The questionnaires were returned by 482 women (23 percent of those contacted). The questionnaire covered various postnatal health problems, including
incontinence, painful sex (dyspareunia), and pelvic pain.

Of the 482 women who returned the completed survey, 30 percent reported painful sex during the previous month.

The study also shows that, overall, 87 percent of the 482 moms who returned the completed survey reported at least one postnatal health problem during the previous month.

The most commonly reported problem was "sexual morbidity," which included painful sex, lack of lubrication or sensation during intercourse, and incontinence during intercourse.

Women who had given birth with the help of forceps were the most likely to report the postnatal conditions covered in the survey. Those who had given birth by cesarean section were the least likely to report such problems.

The study was limited by the fact that more than three-quarters of the mothers whom the researchers tried to contact didn't complete and return the questionnaire.

The relatively few mothers who participated may not represent all new moms. In fact, mothers with postnatal problems may have been more likely to complete the questionnaire.

The low response rate also prevented the researchers from gauging whether postnatal problems are constant or rare.

On the questionnaire, the women were asked to note how frequently they experienced each postnatal problem, with possible responses ranging from "rarely" to "all of the time."

Too few women provided that information, so the researchers couldn't analyze whether moms experienced postnatal problems consistently or occasionally in the year after giving birth.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D.
©2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Laboring alone

This story, which ran in the London Observer on March 18, discusses how frequently women are left to labor alone in the hospital. While that may not seem like a big deal, many studies have shown -- and human history has suggested -- that birth is quicker and less complicated when a mother has continuous, encouraging support for labor and delivery. In that context, it is a shame that women -- many more in the US than in the UK -- are often left in their room alone to handle waves of contractions. (Is it any wonder so many of us jump at the chance of an epidural?)

Here's the piece:

A survey of women who have recently given birth in hospitals has found that a fifth do not have a midwife or doctor by their side throughout the delivery.
Health experts are alarmed because official guidelines state that women in labour should have continuous care.

The growing shortage of midwives is leaving some maternity units struggling to cope, particularly as parts of Britain are seeing a rising birth rate.

The survey of 5,000 mothers, funded by the Healthcare Commission and produced by the National Perinatal and Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, also shows high levels of dissatisfaction with post-natal care, with many women saying that they felt stressed by noisy, crowded conditions where there was too little support, particularly for first-time mothers.

The findings come as the government prepares to announce its own maternity implementation strategy. Ministers have realised that maternity care has received too little money and direction within the NHS, and are identifying 'hot spots' where care is very poor.

The new strategy will give women the right to choose whether to give birth at a local hospital, in a more informal midwife-led unit, or at home with midwife support. This right to choice over place of birth, however, will not be implemented for another two years, as many parts of the NHS cannot yet offer all three options.

Dr Gwyneth Lewis, the national clinical director for maternity services, told The Observer that offering individual care was extremely important. 'If just one woman feels that she was left alone during the birth, then that is one woman too many. It is totally unacceptable to leave any woman alone.'

Lewis said she was well aware of the pressure on%

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

London calling

I spent all of last week in London promoting my book, which has the new title in the UK of Birth: A History. After 10 BBC interviews it was clear that many issues around birth are universal: Women grappling with pain relief, political fights surrounding who controls birth, and economic issues that ultimately decide where, when, how and with whom women deliver. But there are some differences between birth in America and birth in the UK. First, their maternal and neonatal mortality rates are better than ours. Their midwifery rates are higher than ours, and their health czar recently came out publicly to promote home birth, saying she recognized that decades of studies have consistently found home birth to be at least as safe as hospital births for low-risk women. And it's cheaper for the National Health Service, their universal health care system. The trouble is, there aren't enough midwives to facilitate home birth. But women have already picked up on the government's pitch. They like the idea. They're going into labor with the plan of staying at home. Sometimes a midwife gets there in time. Sometimes she doesn't.

From a doctor in Hawaii

This post is an email (posted with permission) from a doctor on the big island of Hawaii.

hello tina,
i just finished listening to your interview with terri gross on "fresh air" and had a comment. first, the interview was great and you bring up some great points about the history of birthing and the current (abysmal) state of birth management.
my issue is the neglect of mentioning of the role of a family doctor in the birth process. as a practicing family physician, i have delivered well over 500 babies and helped to raise them. family docs deliver and manage labors mush more like midwives than other md-obstetricians. we are trained in an approach that is patient centered. not surgically oriented, so the options that you discussed a midwife might suggest are well within the practice of most family physicians practing ob as part of their training. but, family docs have more physician trained decision making capabilities than many midwives and broader surgical training that sometimes is of benefit. also, family doctors often have more insight into how the birth of this individual child into the family unit may be affecting labor, through the deeper and more extensive interaction with the rest of the nuclear and often with the extended family.
i urge you to consider mentioning, or learning more about the role of the family physician in the american and international birthing process. a good start is the american acedemy of family physician website at
i currently practice on the big island of hawaii. my current practice scope is limited, and does not include ob, partly because of "political" infighting among the ob-gyns in this town and their desire to limit access of family doctors to obstetrical patients. and also, because i have adopted 2 little girls from china in the past 2 years and am busy being a mom.
but, i loved my obstetrical practice and very strongly feel, and the data at aafp will back me up, that family docs are an underutilized resource in the field of obstetrics. we have really excellent track records for safe, non- operatively intervened and happy outcomes.
i'm happy to do whatever i can to educate the folks about our role.