If Masturbating During Your Labor Gets You Through, Do You

by Ashley Austrew
Originally Published: 

This doula says she masturbated through labor to relieve pain

For most laboring women, masturbation is the very last thing we’d think about while we’re grunting and swearing through contractions. But, according to one Australian doula, getting in touch with yourself — literally — might just be one of the best natural ways to help ease the pain.

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In a recent viral blog post, doula and photographer Angela Gallo says she masturbated throughout her entire six-hour labor as a way of easing the pain and empowering herself. Gallo tells Redbook her first birth was “highly medicalized” due to a strong epidural, so for her second birth experience, she started researching natural pain relief. “I wanted the experience to be enjoyable,” she says.

Gallo says she read about how nipple stimulation, kissing, and intimacy can provide pain relief, but ultimately, clitoral stimulation just made the most sense when the hardest parts of labor finally hit. In her blog post, she writes:

“Masturbation made the MOST sense to me as I labored through my surges. I remember my husband saying, ‘Would you like to have sex?’ And although I couldn’t commit to sex in the moment, he must have read my mind! Clitoral stimulation worked an absolute TREAT. It shifted my focus to my vagina, to the energy brewing within me. It made me feel connected, and made me feel like I had some control over what I was feeling.”

Gallo says she didn’t orgasm during her birth, but she did experience intense pleasure as a result of both her calm, supportive surroundings and her manual stimulation.

“If I close my eyes now, I am taken back to that place. The hot water on my back, my husband’s hands locked in mine, the safety of his presence, the happiness as I rode those wild waves. Orgasmic in a sexual way – no. Pleasure – YES. It was my glorious instinctual pain-relief system coming to life! I am so proud of myself for exploring an avenue so typically shamed.”

The thought of experiencing pleasure during birth — let alone actually pleasuring yourself — probably strikes most people as odd, but according to a study published in the Journal of Sex Research, it actually works. Neuroscientist Barry R. Komisaruk says his team found that stimulating a woman’s clitoris during labor actually significantly increases their pain threshold and blocks certain pain transmitters before they’re able to reach to the nervous system.

Even more important than a scientific endorsement, though, is a woman’s instincts about her own body. Labor is one of the most intense physical experiences a woman can have, and how we cope with the pain and the emotions is highly individual. For me, I asked for that sweet epidural halfway through labor with each of my kids and loved every second of it. For others, it might feel better to walk around, dance a little jig, chant a long string of F-bombs at increasing intervals, float in a tub, squeeze someone’s hand into a bloody pulp, or, yes, even masturbate. Who are we to judge?

At the end of the day, women know what they need to do to get through labor and delivery, and nothing is too weird or too wrong to be acceptable. Whether it’s more ice chips, an anesthesiologist, or a bottle of lube, just get us what we need and stay out of our way.

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