Sarah Hanks, 37, a yoga teacher, lives in South East London with husband Phil and their son Sacha, three. She tells M&B how giving birth was like having an orgasm...
Twenty years’ experience of yoga and meditation made me certain that it’s possible to have an enjoyable birth. When I was pregnant, I hired a doula, Lea, who gave me lots of information about childbirth, including a DVD called Orgasmic Birth. I also remembered a lady who told me she’d had ‘lots of orgasms’ during her water birth, which sounded incredible.
At 10.30am, 15 days overdue, I noticed a trickle when I went to the loo. It was enough to convince me that my waters were breaking.
I called the hospital, then Phil and I made our way in, so I could be checked. My plans for a home birth had been changed at 39 weeks, when it was discovered I had group B strep infection, so my baby and I needed to be monitored. I was happy to have a hospital birth, but reluctant to be induced.
The midwife and I became locked in a battle of wills.
The midwife and I became locked in a battle of wills. She wanted to induce me straight away in the delivery suite, but I felt strongly that going into labour naturally and giving birth on the midwife-led unit would be the safest option. After taking my first dose of antibiotics to counteract the risk from infection, I convinced her to let me go for a long walk, which I hoped would kick-start contractions. When nothing happened, I still refused to be taken to the delivery suite, and the midwife admitted defeat.
At 9pm, Phil and I entered a birthing room on the midwife-led unit. It had a double bed, ensuite and birthing pool. The midwife told me she wouldn’t start induction that night and that I should get some sleep. I felt confident I was in the best place to have as natural a birth as possible.
The doctor wanted to induce me that morning, but I convinced him to give me until lunchtime
That evening I practised yoga relaxation techniques. When I woke the next morning I felt positive and peaceful. Phil rang Lea, who came straight to us. She reassured me I’d done the right thing in going with my gut instinct and refusing to be induced. As the labour progressed, she left to wait at our house. The doctor wanted to induce me that morning, but I convinced him to give me until lunchtime. Later that morning, mild waves of dragging pressure slowly started in my perineum. Each one reminded me of period cramps.
The sensation felt manageable. I stayed calm, leaning over the edge of the birthing pool during each contraction. As I exhaled slowly, I visualised a golden thread travelling from my mouth and relaxing my entire body. I’d practised that so much during my pregnancy, it felt completely instinctive.
I made a conscious decision to allow the energy to overwhelm me, and let my body take over
Yoga positions also helped soothe me. I made small movements to conserve my energy, resting and rocking slowly on all fours. At 11.15am I asked Phil to ring Lea and ask her to come back. Although not painful, the contractions were intense and overwhelming. I made a conscious decision to allow the energy to overwhelm me, and let my body take over.
Each contraction felt like a gradual build-up of energy, the muscular spasms in my uterus intensifying until they were so powerful, then finally easing again. To my amazement, it wasn’t unpleasant or painful. As I submitted to each contraction, I felt excited and exhilarated. I enjoyed the feeling of being out of control.
Lea and the midwife sat quietly by my side as Phil followed my instructions to press on my tail bone at the height of each contraction. It helped relieve the pressure. The birthing pool had been filled. I suddenly wanted to get in it, but there was no time. With a deep breath, I felt a huge pressure and heard a baby crying.
The midwife handed my son to me. In shock, I held baby Sacha close. The intensity of what I’d experienced overwhelmed me. ‘That was a bit like an orgasm!’ I told Lea. I’d had a pleasurable birth, and in a medical environment too. My labour was recorded as lasting 19 minutes. I’ve never felt more empowered.
Three things I’d tell my friends
- Try to create a romantic environment with your partner. Have time alone if you can and keep the lighting soft to help stimulate oxytonin, the love hormone that leads to labour.
- During pregnancy, think about how you breathe, and practise exhaling slowly. Using yoga techniques like the ‘golden thread’ can really help to relieve pain in labour.
- Surround yourself with images of women enjoying their labour and watch the Orgasmic Birth DVD if you can. Truly believe it’s possible to have an enjoyable birth.