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...)

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Siblings at birth.

Choosing to include an older sibling in the birth of the new baby is a very personal thing. Many factors go into making this decision (especially place of birth) and there is definitely no one size fits all approach as to how you will decide.

When I was pregnant with Poppy, I knew just like her older sister, that I was going to have this baby at home. There are many reasons why I chose a home birth but an important one for me was the role it was going to allow Alomae to play. Prior to going into labor, I ran every scenario though my mind so I would be fully prepared and that her every need was met. Would she be scared seeing me in pain? what if it was a long and drawn out labor where I was incredibly vocal? there were so many things to consider. My hope was that I would go to into labor in the middle of the night and that she would wake up towards the end or even with her new baby sister already here for her to see. How it really turned out though was even far more sweet.

She was fully awake and aware when labor began. Of course I had no idea how long my labor would be so just like I had planned, I had Andy try and put her to sleep. The girl is smart though and knew something exciting was happening and that she definitely wanted to stay awake! She jumped right into being my nurturer and was concerned when I would close my eyes to breathe though a contraction (but nothing over the top), and when her baby was born, Alomae immediately got to bond with her long awaited Poppy Grey! 

Personally, I have such beautiful memories of having my big girl by my side, but I am very aware that most births don't go as quick or easy as mine did. Know your personality and do it only if it brings you joy, and don't if you feel like it's just going to add more stress!

If having your older child being a part of your birth is something that is important to you or you may want to try, here are a few things I think would be really important to consider and have  already set in place!

1. Consider your place of birth: If you are at home it will be easy to make your child comfortable. If you are headed to a birth center, make sure you bring some fun things for them to do; coloring, movies, favorite blanket. If you are going to a hospital, it will be a much more foreign environment in which you will want to do some extra prepping to make sure they feel at home (and you many want to consider having someone bring them towards the end of labor instead of being with you the entire time.)                                                                                                         

2. Talk to your child about what a birth is like. Do not blindside them during the main event. Kids are pretty amazing when you allow them to hear the truth and can rise to the occasion much better then you may think

3. Show a birth video and talk to your child about what they hear and see! 

4. Have someone at your birth thats only role is to hang with your child. A friend to distract, feed, put down for nap etc. Your Partner, Doula, or support person needs to be present with you so make sure it is someone who is totally fine not being in the room and knows they are simply there to be your older childs friend! (make sure this person doesn't stress you out though and is a calming presence!)

5. Arrange for a back up person to come get your child should he/she just not handle you being in labor well. No need for anyone to be stressed out!

 

If your older child does see the birth of the new baby, it will for sure be an experience they will NEVER forget. Alomae has been known to tell a random stranger or two "My sister was born in the bathtub." And you know what, I wouldn't have it any other way! 

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Medicated or un-medicated. What's a doula to do?

I heard someone say the other day "doulas are only for women who want un medicated births" and then just read a forum where a woman said her doula "pushed her own agenda and was mean and acted disappointed in her when she chose to intervene." This  got me thinking about many of my past clients births, why they chose a doula in the first place, and the role that I played. 

How I chose to birth my own babies in no way crosses over to an expectation of what my clients or any other woman should choose. It was a personal decision. I am glad I had them at home, but I 110% believe in informed choice (meaning educating yourself as much as possible and then making the best decision for you off of the information you found) and the freedom to birth in whatever way you choose.

If you are considering a doula it is so very important that you talk through personal beliefs, expectations, as well as dreams and desires. It is imperative that she listens and really gets a feel for what you want and is able to adapt herself to YOU.

I have had mamas who hire me because they are dead set on wanting an all natural birth, some who want "see how it goes", and some who don't care  about going natural at all.

my role as a doula is to try and make your birth experience positive, well informed, and hopefully super sweet! I want to remove the stress of not understanding the "birth" or hospital lingo, advocate for the things that are important to you, and be a constant in what can sometimes me a inconsistent time. 

Don't be afraid to shop around and wait to find a doula who you feel respects your heart on the matter and who isn't there for herself but does her job in service to YOU!