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Growing Number of Women Choose Orgasmic Birth


Aired 6/3/11

The prevailing attitude about childbirth in this country is it's something to be endured, not enjoyed. But advocates of natural births say women are perfectly capable of having a pleasurable, even a sensual experience when their baby's being born.

— The vast majority of mothers in the U.S. give birth in a hospital. They’re usually hooked up to a fetal monitor or other medical device. And they often get pain medication to help them through what many consider to be an agonizing experience.

Ebony Manchion had Charles Jr. at a San Diego midwife-run birth center in Apr...
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Above: Ebony Manchion had Charles Jr. at a San Diego midwife-run birth center in April. She says she’s glad she gave birth the all-natural way.

San Diego midwife Michelle Freund says childbirth can be a pleasurable, even ...
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Above: San Diego midwife Michelle Freund says childbirth can be a pleasurable, even a sensual experience.

UCSD OBGYN Yvette LaCoursiere agrees that childbirth has become medicalized i...
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Above: UCSD OBGYN Yvette LaCoursiere agrees that childbirth has become medicalized in the U.S. But she says that’s not without reason.

But a growing number of mothers-to-be are choosing a different approach.

At Cal State San Marcos, the sound of a woman in ecstasy echoes through a classroom.

“Oh, oh, oh…..”

This woman isn't having sex. She’s having a baby.

It's a clip from a documentary called Orgasmic Birth.

The theme of the movie is childbirth can be pleasurable, even a sensual experience.

Michelle Freund is a licensed midwife in San Diego.

"In a home setting, the comfort of your own home," Freund said, "it’s really easy to get into an intimate, juicy groove, and really allow the natural process to unfold.

Freund said with the right mindset and the right atmosphere, a woman can have what she calls an ecstatic birth.

But Freund argued the glories of childbirth have been lost in modern society. She said birth has been turned into a medical procedure, with a doctor at the helm.

"The doctor’s sort of saying this is what we’re gonna do and this is how we’re gonna get your baby out," Freund said. "And they quote unquote deliver a woman’s baby. I believe a woman delivers her own baby. And she’s self-empowered."

That’s the experience Ebony Manchion was looking for with her baby.

Manchion gave birth to little Charles Jr. on April 17th at a midwife-run birth center in San Diego.

Manchion said when she arrived at the birth center, she and her husband were pretty much left alone in a quiet room.

They lit some candles, got into a big tub, and held each other.

"We were laboring for about three hours," Manchion recalls, "and then, the last 15 minutes of the birth, is when my nurse-midwife came, and she caught the baby. So it was like, not really too supervised. So it just was very natural.

Contrast that with many hospital births.

On the second floor of UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, a woman in labor lies flat on her bed.

A fetal monitor is strapped to her bulging stomach. The device allows medical staff to keep track of the baby’s heartbeat.

This woman may be given the drug Pitocin to speed up the labor process. And in the final stages, she might get an epidural to block the pain.

OBGYN Yvette LaCoursiere stands outside the woman’s room.

The UCSD doctor doesn’t disagree with people who say 'we’ve medicalized birth in this country.' But she said over the last 30 years or so, some of that has become necessary.

"We went from a time where young, healthy women were having babies," Dr. LaCoursiere points out, "to a time now where maternal age is advancing, to more diabetic pregnancies, more obese pregnancies, more multiple pregnancies, and higher rates of pre-term delivery, requiring this level of care."

Dr. LaCoursiere said the vast majority of women can have a normal birth with few, if any interventions. But….

"It’s often difficult to tell who the one will be that has the normal delivery, and who will end up with a slow, protracted labor, " she warned, "or a non-reassuring fetal heart rate tracing, or something that makes us intervene."

That’s why a growing number of maternity hospitals like UCSD offer a natural birth option, where women can deliver their baby with the help of a midwife. If problems arise, doctors can be at the bedside at a moment’s notice.

San Diego midwife Michelle Freund said the way a woman gives birth is important.

"Women who experience natural birth, it’s an imprint in a woman’s life," Freund emphasized. "It’s rewarding, and for the baby, as well. When it’s a gentle birth experience, the bonding is uninterrupted; their connection is more enhanced.

More and more American women are looking for that.

A new study reveals home births in the U.S. rose 20 percent between 2004 and 2008.

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Avatar for user 'Rosie'

Rosie | June 3, 2011 at 8:21 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for doing this story Kenny! It was great to meet you. I look forward to seeing you around campus again...when we have another great evidence based, healthy, mother-baby friendly event. If people have questions about how to find a homebirth midwife they can go to />and click on 'find a CAM midwife' or go to and click on find a provider.

Birth Blessings All! Rosie Peterson

I Doula because the way we are born makes a difference. If you were able to tell your mom how you wanted to be born, what would you have told her? Were the big people that helped you be born listening to you?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | June 3, 2011 at 9:39 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Huh? -- Dr. Spock

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Avatar for user 'kaytiricker'

kaytiricker | June 3, 2011 at 10:21 a.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

I really appreciate KPBS paying attention to this Human Rights Issue. Thank you, KPBS, for your coverage. After 4 years in San Diego as a Labor/ Birth Doula, I have seen a tremendous difference in the humanizing care a woman and her family receive with midwives rather than in the standard medical model. Midwives believe in women. As the doctor in the piece suggests, many many doctors (yes, here, today, in San Diego) fear the woman and her body and trust the machines and the medicine, citing women's age, obesity, and other failures rather than feeling empowered to help all kinds of women have babies naturally and thus more safely.

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Avatar for user 'Marshall'

Marshall | June 3, 2011 at 2:27 p.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

Sounds like a bunch of hippies trying to trick mothers-to-be into putting themselves and their children at risk. There's a reason we live longer and have a lower infant death rate than at any time in human history--it's because of medical science. Sure, most women will have no problem going natural, but for the minority that will have a problem I'm sure they'd rather be in a hospital.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | June 3, 2011 at 3:40 p.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

I turned on the radio this morning just as the moaning was playing - I had to do a double take on the station dial - I thought I had on Sex and the City.

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Avatar for user 'Dorothy'

Dorothy | June 3, 2011 at 8:14 p.m. ― 5 years, 9 months ago

In 1964, I came to the US from Scotland, where "natural childbirth" was the norm, and my first son was born there. He is now 48! My second and third children are native born US citizens, and I had a hard time persuading my Boston, Mass Ob/GYN that I did not need/want anesthesia. He reluctantly agree to "let me try", and was amazed to see 2 natural deliveries with no medication, monitors, or all the paraphernalia currently in use. My third child's birth was an actual orgasmic experience - amazing to me, since I had not been warned about that possibility, nor had I ever heard it discussed until Kenny's piece this morning!
The idea of having that magnificent experience dulled by anesthesia is daunting, although. I realize how lucky I was, and also very fortunate to have no complications in either pregnancies or deliveries.
Wonderful that the US is finally catching on to the fact that pregnancy and delivery is a normal, natural process which can be treated as such, and is not a medical emergency.

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