Epidural versus non-epidural or no analgesia for pain management in labour. 2018. (accessed 3 March 2020)

Arms S. Immaculate deception II, myth, aagic and birth.Berkeley: Celestial Art; 1994

Buckley S. Sexuality in labour and birth: an intimate perspective. In: Walsh D, Downe S (eds). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010

Buckley S. Hormonal physiology of childbearing: evidence and implications for women, babies, and maternity care. National partnership for women and families.Washington DC: Childbirth Connection Programs; 2015

Ecstatic birth: the hormonal blueprint of labor. 2018. (accessed 23 February 2020)

Experiences of pleasurable childbirth: uncovering a blind spot in anthropology. 2014.

Whoa, you really can have an orgasm during childbirth. 2019. (accessed 8 March 2020)

Davis E, Pascali-Bonaro D. Orgasmic birth your guide to a safe, satisfying and pleasurable birth experience.New York: Rodale; 2010

Dick-Read G. Childbirth without fear.London: Pinter and Martin; 2004

Downe S, Finlayson K, Oladapo O, Bonet M, Gülmezoglu AM. What matters to women during childbirth: A systematic qualitative review. PLOS ONE. 2018; 13:(4)

Drozdowskyj ES, Castro EG, López ET, Taland IB, Actis CC. Factors influencing couples' sexuality in the puerperium: a systematic review. Sex Med Rev. 2020; 8:(1)38-47

Cardiovascular and endocrine alterations after masturbation-induced orgasm in women. 1999.

Sex education in pregnancy: does it exist? A literature review. 2008.

Unpacking MILF: exploring motherhood, sexuality and feminism. 2015.

Gaskin IM. Ina May's guide to childbirth.New York: Bantam; 2003

Gaskin IM. Birth matters: a midwife's manifesta.London: Pinter and Martin; 2011

Hashemian F, Shafigh F, Roohi E. Regulatory role of prolactin in paternal behavior in male parents: a narrative review. J Postgrad Med. 2016; 62:(3)182-187

Hotelling BA. From psychoprophylactic to orgasmic birth. J Perinat Educ. 2009; 18:(4)45-48

Kitzinger S. Birth and sex: the power and the passion.London: Pinter and Martin; 2012

The post-orgasmic prolactin increase following intercourse is greater than following masturbation and suggests greater satiety. 2006.

Khajehei M, Doherty M. Childbirth in pleasure and ecstasy: a fountain of hormones and chemicals. Int J of Childbirth Educ. 2012; 27:(3)73-80

Komisaruk B. R, Whipple B. How does vaginal stimulation produce pleasure, pain, and analgesia?. In: Fillingim RB (ed). : IASP Press; 2000

Neural pathways mediating vaginal function: the vagus nerves and spinal cord oxytocin. 2003.

The quality of sexual experience in women correlates with post-orgasmic prolactin surges: Results from an experimental prototype study. 2013.

A common neurobiology for pain and pleasure. 2008.

The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor. 2011.

Mander R. Skills for working with (the woman in) pain. In: Walsh D, Downe S (eds). Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell; 2010

Masters W, Johnson V. Human Sexual Response.Boston: Little Brown; 1966

The experience of pleasure: a perspective between neuroscience and psychoanalysis. 2018.

What it's really like to have an orgasmic birth. 2015. (accessed 11 April 2020)

Myles textbook for midwives, 16th edn. London: Elsevier Ltd; 2014

National Maternity Review: Better births improving outcomes of maternity services in england a five year forward view for maternity care.London: NHS England; 2016

Nelson S. Women and sex, 2nd edn. In: Squire C (ed). Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing; 2009

Newton N. Maternal emotions: a study of women's feelings toward menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, infant care and other aspects of their femininity.New York: Paul B Hoeber; 1955

Some aspects of primitive childbirth. 1964.

NHS Digital. NHS maternity statistics 2018-2019. 2019. (accessed 29 February 2020)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. Clinical guideline CG190 2017. (accessed 3 March 2020)

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies. Clinical guideline CG62. 2019. (accessed 3 March 2020)

Odent M. The functions of the orgasms. The highways to transcendence.London: Pinter and Martin Ltd; 2009

Office for National Statistics. Birth characteristics for England and Wales. 2019. (accessed 2 March 2020)

Childbirth climax: the revealing of obstetrical orgasm. 2013.

Multiphasic prolactin secretion during parturition in human subjects. 1977.

Stanway A, Stanway P. Choices in childbirth.London: Pan Books; 1984

Tew M. Safer childbirth? A critical history of maternity care.London: Free Association Books; 1998

A psychological view of sexual pain among women: applying the fear-avoidance model. 2013.

Uvnäs Moberg K. The oxytocin factor, tapping the hormone of calm, love, and healing, 2nd edn. London: Pinter and Martin; 2011

Uvnäs-Moberg K, Ekström-Bergström A, Berg M Maternal plasma levels of oxytocin during physiological childbirth – a systematic review with implications for uterine contractions and central actions of oxytocin. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019; 19:(285)

Wager TD, Scott DJ, Zubieta JK. Placebo effects on human mu-opioid activity during pain. PNAS. 2007; 104:(26)11056-11061

The gendered nature of sexual scripts. 2005.

Analgesia produced in women by genital self-stimulation. 1988.

World Health Organization. WHO recommendations: Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience. 2018. (accessed 2 March 2020)

Wrobel B, Nowosielski K, Sodowska P, Sodowski K. Psychological factors in sexual pain – fear-avoidance model in chronic pelvic pain syndrome therapy. Int J of Gynecol and Clin Pract. 2015; 108:(2)

Pain and pleasure in the birthing room: understanding the phenomenon of orgasmic birth

02 August 2021
16 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 8


The significance of the physiological connection between sexuality and birth is widely overlooked and understated within maternity care. Despite some researchers acknowledging the possibility of orgasmic birth, most literature on the topic is anecdotal. Qualitative research surrounding women who report having ecstatic and orgasmic births demonstrates the positive effect engaging with the psychosexual elements of birth has on the maternal birthing experience. A private environment, careful choice of analgesia, sex-positive birth attendants and effective antenatal education are all suggested as key contributing factors towards its possibility. By recognising the sexual dimensions of birth, midwives are able to facilitate sensitive, empowering environments, encourage healthy sexual relationships and break down cultural stigma to increase the likelihood of pleasurable birth. The evidence highlights a need for the incorporation of the relationship between sexuality and birth into midwifery education, as well as within antenatal education for prospective parents.

Orgasmic birth, alternatively referred to as ‘ecstatic’ birth, and the idea of sexual pleasure in childbirth are notions that have circulated in anecdotal literature for decades, and yet these perspectives have not translated into midwifery or anthropological spheres of research (Buckley, 2010; Caffrey, 2014). The terms encompass the range of sensation and emotional release within the birthing process when experienced as pleasurable by women (Davis and Pascali-Bonaro, 2010). The likely first modern scientific exploration of this concept within medical literature was by Niles Newton (1955), who discussed similarities between sexual and birthing behaviours. Pioneers of research on the human sexual response, Masters and Johnson (1966) also alluded to ‘orgasmic birth’ over 50 years ago, recalling 12 women who reported intense orgasmic sensation during the second stage of their labours.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting British Journal of Midwifery and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for midwives. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • Unlimited access to the latest news, blogs and video content

  • Monthly email newsletter