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Blog

The Importance of Oxytocin During and After Birth

Chelsea Gonzales

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If you’re expecting sometime in the near future, chances are you’ve heard talk of oxytocin. This amazing hormone is often referred to as the “love hormone” and the “cuddle hormone”, and it’s one we put to good use on a regular basis. But what does it have to do with giving birth?

Well, it actually plays an enormous role in the birth process. In fact, it might just be the most important hormone your body releases during labor. You see, oxytocin takes care of numerous jobs while baby is being born, and each and every one is crucial to the process.

Let’s take a look at what this awesome hormone does during labor, delivery, and even postpartum.

Oxytocin’s Many Jobs

Causes Uterine Contractions

Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions to happen. Therefore, it’s important that women are allowed to labor in situations that stimulate oxytocin production. Additionally, those looking to jumpstart labor or make contractions stronger might do so by encouraging their body to produce oxytocin.

Facilitates the Milk Let-Down Reflex

Nursing is a new baby’s very favorite thing to do. This is understandable, as not only does nursing provide nourishment, it also gives mama and infant an opportunity to cuddle and connect. In fact, this closeness and connection is what causes the milk let-down reflex.

You see, cuddling and nipple stimulation cause the body to release oxytocin, which in turn causes the milk to begin flowing.

Fosters the Mother-Baby Bond

Of course, the love hormone is also an amazing bonding tool. The minute a baby is born, both mother and infant begin producing significant amounts of oxytocin, creating a strong bond between the two right away. This large amount of oxytocin also encourages maternal feelings and actions in the mother.

Assists in Expelling the Placenta and Stopping Bleeding

Lastly, oxytocin is important in ensuring labor ends with a happy and healthy mother. That surge of hormones the mother gets right after giving birth—in addition to the oxytocin released during the very first nursing session—encourages more contractions which work to expel the placenta.

On top of that, the hormone also works to close a number of blood vessels and promote clotting in the placental attachment point, ensuring that excessive bleeding doesn’t occur.

Promoting Oxytocin Production

Clearly, a laboring woman will want to ensure she is producing plenty of oxytocin while birthing her little one. Wondering how oxytocin production can be stimulated? Try the following:

A Caring Touch

Caring touch from a loved one will most certainly promote oxytocin production. That said, cold or medical touch can do exactly the opposite. Therefore, laboring women should feel comfortable with their care providers, and nurses, doctors, and midwives should all be mindful of the type of touch they provide.

Nipple Stimulation

For many, the easiest way to encourage the body to produce oxytocin is through nipple stimulation. In fact, many women use this method to get labor going strong when it seems hesitant to start, and it seems to work in many cases.

Laughter

Ever wonder why it feels easier to get close to those you can laugh with? It’s because laughter and humor cause the body to create oxytocin. Therefore, a room with a lighthearted vibe full of jokes and silliness is a wonderful birthing environment for many women.

Kissing

Not surprisingly, kissing also produces oxytocin. For this reason, the famous midwife Ina May Gaskin often had laboring mamas “smooch” their partners to keep contractions strong and steady.

Low-Key Exercise

No, I’m not suggesting you go for a run while in labor. However, walking, gentle dancing, and other forms of low-key exercise could cause your body to create more oxytocin, helping labor to move along more quickly.

Mantras, Prayer, Sounds, Meditation, Positive Visualization and Hypnosis

Depending on your personality, any combination of the things listed above may work for you. Try one or two options on for size and choose the one that makes you feel most comfortable and seems to work well for you.

Warm Bath

Last but not least, we have to mention a warm bath. Honestly, any type of relaxation is likely to encourage oxytocin production. However, a warm bath is what seems to do the trick in a large number of cases. Don’t have a tub? Some women even find that a warm shower is sufficient.

Conclusion

Knowing the role oxytocin plays in the birthing experience, as well as knowing how to help the body produce plenty of it, can help expectant mamas ensure their labors go as quickly and smoothly as possible.

One of the best ways to make sure a birthing environment is conducive to oxytocin production is to hire a doula. A doula understands the importance of a positive and relaxing attitude and will be able to ensure the room is as comfortable as possible for the laboring mama.

Looking to hire a doula for your birth? Please contact us today!