"Orgasmic" isn't exactly the first word most women use to describe childbirth. Yet thanks to a new DVD, "Orgasmic Birth," we're learning that birthing has perks beyond the miracle of life. For some women, this includes actual orgasms during delivery.

Regarded as "the best kept secret" of childbirth, women are curious about this seemingly unimaginable experience. How can childbirth possibly be climactic?

No matter how you look at it, birth is a sexual experience. That's going to make many of you cringe, but biologically it makes sense. The pleasures of birth allow for better mother-infant bonding. Far from perverse, orgasmic pleasures are a continuation of the act of conception itself. They're in the best interest of the baby, and an ideal starting point for healthy family relationships.

Orgasmic birth appears to be part of Mother Nature's master plan. Research conducted by Dr. Beverly Whipple in 1989, as well as others, indicates that orgasms can be induced in some women during childbirth. It is believed that this happens because of pressure from the baby's head on its mother's all-important hypogastric and pelvic nerve systems.

These nerves play a part in a woman's ability to experience vaginal, cervical and G-spot orgasms. Explaining orgasmic birth, OB-GYN Dr. Christiane Northrup said that as the baby moves through the birth canal, it actually stimulates all the pathways involved in sexual pleasure. Plus the stages of natural childbirth mimic one's normal sexual response in some ways; for example, breathing becomes faster and deeper.

Throw into the mix the release of oxytocin during childbirth and you have an even greater love-fest potential come delivery, D-day. This hormone lends itself to the uterine contractions and nipple erection a woman experiences during childbirth.

Furthermore, it dulls pain, actually producing stronger, more effective, even pleasurable contractions. Best yet, it can also make for orgasmic sensations, especially with the increase in ecstasy-producing beta-endorphins.

So now for the million-dollar question ... How does a woman experience such an orgasm? Strategies include:

— Overcoming your fears.

— Recognizing that you are a sexual being throughout pregnancy.

— Embracing the idea of over-the-top pleasure during childbirth.

— Allowing yourself to be open to orgasm.

Couples need to be given the privacy to boost the flow of oxytocin. This can be achieved via kissing, caressing and massage. Some couples even have intercourse prior to the water breaking.

Such affectionate exchanges allow the woman's partner to participate more in the birthing process, adding to this shared experience even more. The touching and nurturing can be very comforting to both partners.

In investigating "unexpected birthgasm" — spontaneous climax during labor without stimulation — Dr. Danielle Harel found that such a "passionate birth" involves a supportive partner who does things like hold her. Women who have birthgasms have a good sex life and are fully educated about childbirth.

Critical to Harel's findings is that the woman uses sexual stimulation to ease contractions, instead of anesthesia. According to the authors of "The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby," one orgasm is believed to be 22 times as relaxing as the average tranquilizer.

Obviously, the birthing environment needs to be safe, secure, and uninterrupted. Keeping the delivery space stress-free is vital, since this helps to keep fear hormones that block oxytocin in check. These hormones prevent oxygen-rich blood from flowing to the uterus and sex organs, thwarting the body's ability to give birth smoothly.

More than anything, women who want to experience orgasmic births need to take control of their pregnancy and childbirth. Instead of handing their bodies over to medicine to speed labor, they need to work with non-interventive doctors or midwives. Synthetic hormones can actually make for contractions that are more painful, causing problems like rupture of the uterus.

Whether or not you hope to orgasm, couples need to investigate all of the different ways a woman can give birth. They are entitled to an experience that is positive and pleasurable. Childbirth can be approached as an event to be enjoyed and not something that women have to endure.

Childbirth can be emotionally, physically AND sexually fulfilling. Simple awareness of orgasmic birth may increase your chances of such a response. At the same time, women should be careful not to set themselves up for feelings of failure if they don't have an orgasm. When it comes to childbirth, everyone needs to expect the unexpected.

Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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