Understanding Labor Hormones for a Positive Birth Experience
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
I'm gonna spill a secret with you all: the same hormones that got the baby in there (I realize babies are made in different ways, but for the sake of simplicity) are the same hormones that help get them outta there. The more safe, comfortable and loved a person feels during labor, the more effectively the body can do the birth thing.
In other words: YOUR BODY IS NOT A ROBOT.
Our current attitudes towards birth and our highly medicalized culture can make labor longer and more difficult. We put people into an unfamiliar, uncomfortable environment, attach them to wires and monitors, strangers in and out of the room, bright lights, beeping and booping and expect them to labor along like a perfectly timed birthing machine. This is not how our bodies are meant to work! It's no wonder things can slow down or go awry.
But it's possible to do things differently. If you understand the very delicate hormonal process of birth, you can use it to your advantage.
Resisting the urge to get nerdy I would simmer it down very simply and say these hormones:
Help us feel love and connection
Help us be prepared
Help decrease pain
Help us be strong
Personally, I feel like the ones that we have the most control over are the hormones of Oxytocin and Adrenaline. You can actively plan to encourage or manage these hormones in order to have a better birthing experience.
When I'm teaching my childbirth classes we take some time to think and plan ahead for how we can feel safe and loved during labor. This looks different for everyone.
During early labor especially, IT IS SO IMPORTANT to increase your oxytocin and decrease the adrenaline. Avoiding extra stress and feeling safe and loved in early labor can help move the process along. The Oxytocin hormone is the one responsible for contracting your uterus. This means you can prepare items and activities that will help you feel calm and connected during the earlier stages.
On the other hand, extra stress in early labor can slow the process down. This can look or feel like: not enough privacy, feeling pressure from the clock, not feeling heard or supported.
Later in labor, the stress hormone Adrenaline plays an important role in helping us be really strong to birth a baby and trigger your body to release endorphins which can help you feel more happy and comfortable. Your oxytocin also continues to rise during the process to help you bond with your baby and release the hormones which encourage breastfeeding.
Your feelings affect your hormones ------> your hormones affect your labor
Imagine if you will, the kind of conditions which you would want if you were going to make a baby or practice making a baby? What would help you feel most safe in those vulnerable moments? What kind of lighting or atmosphere would help you feel comfortable and loved?
It is literally the same kind of hormonal process and atmosphere that will help you have an easier time in labor. The environment and how you feel matters.
You are not a diva to want to have a comfortable and calming birth experience. It's not selfish to ask for things like dim lights, freedom of movement, music, less stimulation and privacy. You are not being a "difficult patient" if you want less interruptions and more control over the birth environment, extra support with positions and hands on comfort or to refuse extra staff and residents in your room.
IT'S ACTUAL SCIENCE.
Are you looking for doula support in the Raleigh-Durham Area? Get in touch today! and let's make a plan for your calm and supportive birth experience. I have some limited availability for early-mid 2022.
Want to learn more about how to encourage those good labor hormones?