What is one of the most beneficial things you can do during your labor? You partner can do during your labor? Your midwife can do during your labor? Your doula can do during labor? KEEP THE OXYTOCIN HIGH!
When you look at that picture, can't you feel it? Look how incredibly sweet and snuggly that baby is. I just want to hold her and smell her and feel her soft little hair and look at her lips and touch her soft skin and listen to her little baby sounds....ahhh, can you feel it?
That's oxytocin. That's the hormone of love, bonding, connection, maternal nurturance. It is also the hormone that surges when we eat together, when we sit in each other's heart field, when we nurse our baby, when we make love and when we give birth.
Oxytocin has a very practical application during birth too. Dr. Michel Odent, author of many books including "Birth Reborn" and his latest book, "Do We Need Midwives?" says, "Oxytocin is the hormone that enables the mother to maintain effective contractions of the uterus up to the birth of the baby, and then up to the delivery of the placenta. Just after the baby’s birth, the mother can have a very high peak of oxytocin, so that the placenta will be separated easily and safely without any significant bleeding. The conditions for such a high peak are that the room is overheated and the mother has nothing else to do but look at her baby and feel the baby’s skin close to her own. Any sort of distraction can be harmful."
So how do we keep the oxytocin high at a birth? Well, the same way you keep it high when you make love, when you sit in the loving company of good friends and when you nurse your baby.
Touch - Gentle, loving touch is one of the most effective ways to increase oxytocin. A gentle hand, a soft caress, playing with the laboring woman's hair, a foot rub, a whisper in her ear. The thought of any of these kinds of touch sends chills down my spine. That's oxytocin.
Some women don't like to be touched in labor. The sensation is too much. But perhaps a loving, supportive presence will do the trick. Just BEING there in a loving spirit, present, not distracted, raises oxytocin.
The other thing I would like to say about oxytocin, which can't be stated enough, especially in this politically divisive and turbulent time. Babies born into this world with love as the center of the birth experience are able to bond more deeply. This sets up a tremendously important pathway in the brain that tells the baby he or she is in a loving and safe environment. This is the key for the success of his or her humanity. A baby who is bonded makes loving decisions as an adult. A baby who is bonded thinks rationally inclusive of their balanced emotions.
Does that make sense? A person who makes a rational decision can either do that considering their emotional state or ignoring their emotional state. The emotional state keeps the heart in check. When the heart is kept in check, you do the right thing. The people who make rational decisions without considering their emotional state OR have an emotional state that is out of balance, shoot first and ask questions later. They think that pre-emptive bombing is a legitimate war strategy. They ignore lead in water because it costs too much money to repair the city's pipes. They build oil pipelines outside of their town to protect their water supply only to affect the water supply of another group of people. Every single example here has left thousands of people injured, homeless or dead.
Many of the social issues we see today stem from a lack of oxytocin and an increase in adrenaline.
So you see, how you give birth to your baby couldn't be more important. It affects the entire world. Your oxytocic experience raises the collective oxytocic experience. Your baby born in love and safety builds a human who deeply knows love and safety. This can only be a good thing.
There are many ways to keep your oxytocin level high during labor. Explore those possibilities with your partner. Contemplate how you would like to be loved during your birth. I guarantee it will shorten your labor, make it less painful (maybe even pleasurable!), leave you with a positive memory of the experience and set you up for empowered mothering. It just might even heal the world.