Oxytocin & Endorphins
Be Empowered Birth Series
Hormones in labor and birth play an important role. There are two primary hormones that have a huge impact on:
Preparing for birth
Bonding after birth
These hormones are Oxytocin and Endorphins! Though there are more hormones that can occur in labor and birth, we are focusing on the two that are helpful and that should be focused on producing.
First, one of the most important hormones of labor is Oxytocin! Oxytocin is known as the ‘love hormone’, this is what is produced any time we have those feelings of joy, excitement, attachment, and has the ability to allow us to feel good. This hormone is also part of producing contractions, bonding after birth and the release of milk in breastfeeding.
During pregnancy and as your body gets closer to labor, receptor cells begin to become increasingly sensitive to oxytocin, which stimulates contractions to help efface and dilate the cervix, move baby down, birth baby and the placenta. Following the birth, oxytocin also helps produce contractions that help reduce the bleeding and the uterus to return to its original size over the postpartum months.
Ways to promote and increase the flow of oxytocin:
Building a birth team you trust and builds your confidence
Creating a space that is comfortable and calming
Utilizing comfort measures to relax and allow your body to respond to contractions
Nipple stimulation that mimics breastfeeding and can strengthen contractions
Immediate skin-to-skin with your newborn, as well as continuous skin-to-skin time in the postpartum months
The second hormone in labor that is just as important are the endorphins. Endorphins are the hormones that are released when you face stress or pain, and when released bring a calming and pain-relieving sense. In pregnancy, it is not uncommon to begin to produce endorphins. However, throughout labor, endorphins continue to rise steadily until the baby arrives. Often in labor we hear mothers express a point in which they feel that they are so inward focused, usually this is once active labor is well on its way, but the rise of endorphins can actually create an altered state of consciousness that helps a laboring mother work through contractions and birth. Very similar to the production of oxytocin in order to increase the flow of endorphins be sure to create a space that you are able to calming and confidently labor in. Hire a birth team you trust, including an incredible doula, and prepare for the birth that you desire.
There is a lot that goes in to the process of labor and birth, with hormones only being one of the many elements. Continue reading our Be Empowered Birth Blog Series, as well as sign up for childbirth education classes that dive further into the information needed to prepare you for the birth you desire.