Although not the only hormone to play a role in childbirth, Oxytocin, the “love hormone”, is one of the favorites. It plays an important role in social bonding, sexual reproduction, and the time during and after birth, and is produced in the hypothalamus & released by the pituitary gland in the brain.
Oxytocin During Labour & Birth
Oxytocin stimulates powerful contractions of the uterus during labour, which help to thin and open the cervix. The pressure of the baby against the cervix, and then the tissues of the pelvic floor, stimulates the release of more oxytocin, & therefore stimulates stronger contractions.
Low levels of oxytocin during labour and birth can be problematic. When levels are low, it can cause contractions to slow, or stop altogether, resulting in a longer labour. Oxytocin also assists in expelling the placenta and helps limit bleeding at the site of the placenta. Risks of excessive bleeding at the site of the placenta increase when oxytocin levels are low.
Ways To Promote The Body’s Production Of Oxytocin
Here are some ways that you can increase your body’s production of oxytocin during labour and birth:
- Avoid disturbances during labour, such as uncomfortable procedures, noise, and unwelcome visitors, as much as possible.
- Use gravity to help your baby’s head press against the cervix, and then against your pelvic floor.
- Try to stay calm, comfortable and confident during your labour.
- Avoid epidural analgesia, as it is said to decrease the production of naturally occurring oxytocin.
Oxytocin And Breastfeeding
This feel-good love hormone is an important part of breastfeeding. Stimulation of the nipple and surrounding tissue of the breast releases oxytocin, which in turn, stimulates the flow of breast milk. The release of oxytocin during breastfeeding also causes the uterus to contract and shrink, commonly known as “after pains”. These uterine contractions feel similar to menstrual cramps, and help lessen the amount of postpartum bleeding. They also serve the purpose of shrinking the uterus back to its usual size before the pregnancy.
Oxytocin And Bonding With Your Baby
Oxytocin is also called the love hormone because it is produced during orgasm and other affectionate moments. It turns on our reward center in the brain, easing pain, and making us feel good! Women who choose not to breastfeed don;t miss out on the oxytocin rush, as simply gazing into your baby’s eyes, snuggling, massage, and ‘kangaroo-care’, unleashes oxytocin to both mother and baby.
So, keep that Oxytocin flowing!