All You Need is LOVE (aka Oxytocin)

oxytocin_molecule

OXYTOCIN is the hormone responsible for contractions during labor and release of milk during breastfeeding. It is truly the hormone of bonding, love and motherhood, and its effects in our bodies are more amazing than we realize. Here are 4 Surprising Facts about the love hormone ~ OXYTOCIN.

No. 1: BIRTH is the Most Oxytocin-Rich Experience in Our Lives

The hormone Oxytocin is released in surges by the posterior pituitary gland in our brains. These surges happen when we kiss someone, have an orgasm or breastfeed a baby. It is physiologically produced in our bodies in response to the distention of the cervix and uterus during labor (incredible!). The largest release of oxytocin we as females experience in our lifetimes is just after the birth of our babies, before the placenta is delivered. That’s why IMMEDIATE SKIN-TO-SKIN with our babies immediately after birth is so important.

breast_crawl{Image via Natural to the Core}

No. 2: Pitocin is a Synthetic Version of Oxytocin, but It’s Different

Physicians have been using synthetic Oxytocin ~ called Pitocin ~ since the early 1900’s to induce or augment labor. While Pitocin acts on specific receptors in the uterus to enhance uterine contractions, or slow down postpartum bleeding. Oxytocin is produced within the brain, so it affects the brain … it creates feelings of peacefulness, intimacy and bonding. When Pitocin flows into a woman’s body via an IV, it doesn’t cross back into her brain and therefore doesn’t have the same love effects (or benefits).

newborn-footprint-edward-lettau-and-photo-researchers

{Image via Fine Art America}

No. 3: Oxytocin Protects Babies’ Brains During Labor

This incredible research shows that during unmedicated birth, Oxytocin release in a mother’s body shuts down some activity in the baby’s brain, thereby protecting babies from anoxic insults ~ injury due to lack of oxygen during the birth process. Wow!

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{Art by Judy Saidman}

No. 3: Oxytocin (& Company) Reduce Pain

Debra Pascali-Bonaro shares research findings that when women have orgasms, the pain tolerance threshold and pain detection threshold increase dramatically. Also, the release of oxytocin and beta-endorphin (a hormone of pain relief) go hand-in-hand during spontaneous and un-medicated labor.

Beta endorphin (pronounced beet-a en-door-fin) is one of the endorphin hormones which are released by the brain in times of stress or pain, and is a natural equivalent to painkilling drugs like pethidine {demerol}. During labor, beta-endorphin helps to relieve pain, and contributes to the “on another planet” feeling that women experience when they labor without drugs. ~ Sarah Buckley

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{Photo by Little la Photography}

No. 4: Setting the Stage for Romance (and Oxytocin Release)

Since oxytocin release is an event of love (and love-making), the best way to enhance natural Oxytocin secretion in your body is to get into the MOOD. Melissa Espey-Mueller, doula, teaches that mamas in early labor should stay home, stay in bed and make-out. Jeannine Parvati-Baker long taught that there should be no one in the room during birth that wasn’t there during conception.

It makes sense then that a mama shouldn’t have anyone in her birth room that she wouldn’t want at a romantic dinner for two. No distant uncles or overbearing mothers-in-law, please!

Note: Care providers should be respectful of this knowledge and be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible when present in the birth room. Couples should also be allowed plenty of privacy throughout the labor process.

“Passion and love are as powerful a combination at birth as they are in sexual activity. And in birth, as in sex, we release oxytocin, the hormone of love, in huge quantities from deep inside our brain. Here again, our hormones are directing us toward optimal and ecstatic experiences, yet this system is also extremely vulnerable to interference.”

~ Sarah Buckley

So Mamas, don’t forget. For a healthy birth …

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