the hormone of love

today is valentines day, so I thought it would appropriate to share some fun facts on Oxytocin, the hormone of love!

Oxytocin is released in both men and women during love making and plays a big part in feeling connected. The act of making a baby isn't the only thing the Love hormone is good for though, It plays a huge role in birthing and bonding as well!

     oxytocin

  • triggers and regulates contractions during labor
  • is what helps your milk let down and be expressed with breastfeeding
  • after the birth it is what contracts your uterus (helping prevent excess bleeding) and aiding it's quick return to a normal size.
  • plays a huge part in bonding with your new baby! nursing and skin to skin contact also trigger the release of the hormone (yes, your baby releases it and gets the benefits too!)

Oxytocin sounds pretty wonderful huh?!

It is important to know that there are also things that can suppress or keep oxytocin from doing it's job.

Stress and Fear in any situation hinder our oxytocin from being released. Add stress and fear to the labor process and the bodies natural reactions to coping with labor are at risk!

There is a term often used when talking about what can happen after we start to unnecessarily intervene. It is called the CASCADE OF INTERVENTION. Here is an example of what can happen when this process is began.

  • The epidural can make the mother's blood pressure drop, affecting the blood supply to the baby.
  • The synthetic version of oxytocin (pitocin) can never be as gently regulated or released like the natural one the body produces, causing the baby to be more likely to be distressed.
  • The electronic foetal monitor that we need to attach because of the risks of these other two technologies show the baby might be distressed.
  • The woman is now more likely to have a caesarean section.
  • The woman, if she gets to second stage, can't feel the urge to push and finds it much harder to get upright for birth, ending up with a forceps or vacuum extraction.
  • An episiotomy (cut to the perineum) is often needed to make the vaginal passage wide enough for the instruments and baby.
  • The baby is more likely to need to go to the special care nursery.
  • The baby is less likely to breastfeed straight away, impacting on future breastfeeding.
  • The mother feels sore (caesarean or episiotomy) and wonders if it could have been different. (source)

But doesn't birth really really hurt? Don't I want to avoid the pain?

I am not going to lie, having a baby can hurt! But there is something incredible to be said about allowing the body to release it's natural hormones and take you through the wild ride of feeling all, including the GOOD that a natural birth can provide!

In a natural birth, "Levels of oxytocin gradually increase throughout labour, and are highest around the time of birth, when it contributes to the euphoria and receptiveness to her baby that a mother usually feels after an unmedicated birth. This peak, which is triggered by sensations of stretching of the birth canal as the baby is born, does not occur when an epidural is in place. Administration of an epidural has been found to interfere with bonding between ewes and their newborn lambs." (source)

(this is not to say that if you do intervene, you will not feel happy or bond with your baby! that is not the case. But depending on how and what happens, it can have an effect!)

I have had two babies naturally and have witnessed countless women do the same. I can attest that though being very hard, allowing the body to work in it's created state, is so amazing! And when allowed, this hormone of love, really does do such a wonderful job! 

Ok, it's Valentines Day... So now if you are married, go release some Oxytocin! ;) And don't worry if you are not married, a good HUG releases the hormone just the same! (well not exactly the same...)

Screen shot 2014-02-14 at 2.09.07 PM.png