Orgasmic Birth
by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro

[2010, Rodale, Inc.; 360 pages, paperback.]

[Review first published in Midwifery Today Issue 95, Autumn 2010, © 2010, Midwifery Today, Inc. Review by Jessica Atkins.]

I smiled, laughed and even shed a few tears over the book, Orgasmic Birth, by Elizabeth Davis and Debra Pascali-Bonaro. You know the feeling you get when you really connect with something that resonates deeply with your own sense of truth? That’s what this book made me feel. My husband kept asking me what I was reading.

There were a few points that really stuck out for me. First, the authors convey a sense of honesty throughout the book. I never got the feeling that any aspects of pregnancy or birth were either glorified or sensationalized to make it easier for the reader.

Secondly, in contrast with many other books that over-do the “how-to” aspects of a book, the practical guide by trimester was useful, concise and digestible. The sidebar stories from parents were very uplifting and connected the practical information to the images and feelings of parents. I think any parent could find a meaningful connection to the information in this book.

Lastly, thank you to the authors for so openly connecting the full circle of sexuality in relationships, pregnancy and birth in a healthy and approachable context. At last we have an approachable tool for couples, midwives, doulas, educators—anyone who works with pregnant and parenting families really—to facilitate the powerful connection that our human sexuality has to not only the conception act, but to nurturing healthy, physical, loving relationships. The authors also connect the physiological aspects of a healthy sex life with healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

The book is seasoned with wise messages that encourage women to enjoy the inherent beauty and pleasure of becoming pregnant and of the birth process, and to open to the possibility of pleasure and joy in birth. This is broken down in six steps and includes a detailed explanation of the hormonal chain of events as they occur in a normal, natural childbirth as opposed to medically managed, drug-induced birth. This may be surprising to some people, and may be enough for parents to refuse interventions such as Pitocin or an epidural.

Furthermore, these facets are not typically present in a hospital birth and even in some birth centers. The authors advise, “The best way to [avoid a c-section] is to choose a setting for birth that encourages normal physiology, so that interventions known to increase the risk of surgical birth are at a minimum.”

The book implies the connection between physiological normalcy with homebirth, but I felt a direct connection between the hormonal chemistry of homebirth vs. hospital birth and its subsequent stray from the path of normalcy was missed. Perhaps the authors wanted to avoid focusing the book on homebirth and rather focus on having a pleasurable birth experience. Regardless, this is a book I will add to my lending library and share with my clients as well as emphatically suggest to any birth professional that wants to bring awareness of the pleasurable realities of pregnancy and orgasmic birth.

Reviewer Jessica Atkins has been a doula for two decades and is a writer and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the hill country outside of Austin, Texas, where she shares her passion for birth with the community of doulas, midwives and families.

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