Oxytocin: A Labour of Love
Oxytocin Labour’s little helper
When I was a student midwife many moon’s ago, I used to trek the library looking for any book’s that could give me insight into the deep psychological influences that would enhance or inhibit labour. Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Birth Reborn Michel Odent being two of my favourite’s. Other early influences, came from experienced midwives, who upheld the fight for normalising birth were people like Sara Wickham and Janet Balaska’s who published books on waterbirth.
Can you imagine going to the Doctor’s about your sex life and he advises you that you would have to be bought into hospital, and put in a room, with bright lights and lots of people would be coming in and out and you would have to have sex in front of them!! This is of course a fake scenario, trying to make the reader think about how a woman in labour feel’s in a bright room with bright lights and lots of people in the room and being expected to pop our her baby on demand when it suits the care giver. (Midwifery: Best Practice Vol 2 Edited by Sara Wickham 2004)
We all produce Oxytocin and how much we produce depends upon our emotional state of mind, where we are, what we are doing, how relaxed we are and how healthy we are. When we conceive we usually do this in a private place away from public attention (well some people might not! but most do). So your birthing environment needs to be calm and relaxed. If you’re considering a home birth it will be easy to create your nest, but if you are going to hospital take some of your own things, a pillow, music, maybe a scan picture of you baby to focus on when you are having a surge,human’s need to nest just like animals.
Oxytocin is the hormone that helps the uterus contract during labour, its production increases throughout childbirth and usually peak’s around the moment of giving birth, it contributes to the feeling of elation that women feel the moment baby is born; furthermore it enables receptiveness from mother to baby, the maternal instinct we feel once we have met our baby for the first time.
Oxytocin production can be impaired for many reason’s, and if you are feeling stressed or fearful then you will produce other hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which will inhibit the release of oxytocin, these are the fight or flight hormones, they are designed to help us escape a stressful situation however long-term release can have a negative impact on childbirth. Something as simple as lack of food leading up to and during labour can lead to a decrease in Oxytocin level’s. Other factors that can interfere with production are a brightly lit birthing room, a chaotic environment and care giver’s that release stress around you.
Here are simple things that can make all the difference
- Lots of cuddle’s, Oxytocin is the love hormone so touch from a loved one helps
- Relaxing music
- Soft lights
- Words of encouragement
- Deep and slow breathing during a contraction
- Happy care giver’s including midwives and doctors
- A warm relaxing bath or if the hospital has one a birthing pool
- Good antenatal education
- Thinking about your baby take a framed scan photo and keep it close to you
If you choose a home birth then most of the work has been done, this is your nest, your environment and your comfort zone. If however you feel safer having your baby on a birth centre or labour ward, then ensure you get to visit the hospital so you get familiar with your surroundings. Do your homework take some antenatal classes, seek a good pregnancy yoga teacher and speak to your midwife.
This is your journey, you have chosen to walk in uncharted waters, and believe me when I say that much strength can be gained from childbirth. High expectations can lead to disappointment, just allow yourself to be in the moment, focus on working as a team with your baby, breath your way through and help your baby find the light, bringing forth a new beginning and a whole new way of life and understanding. Turn fear into success.
I found this little clip on you tube too –
- The latent phase of labour
- How natal hypnotherapy helps childbirth
- Coping with childbirth as nature intended
- Waterbirth Natures epidural
Wendy Kuharska Midwife and Childbirth Educator