Working in a hospital and supporting women through labour, I often chat to a labouring mum on the phone who’s contracting regularly and ready to come into hospital. So why, when she gets there, have her contractions disappeared!
Let me tell you! It’s ALL in the hormones.
One of the most important ingredients in the hormone cocktail of labour and giving birth is a little something called Oxytocin, ‘the love hormone’. Oxytocin is responsible for creating and maintaining your contractions, and you need a LOT of it! Adrenalin ‘the fear hormone’, stops oxytocin production in it’s tracks! So hitting that third red light, not finding a space in the car park and encountering a doctor in a white coat on your way through the maternity unit doors is exactly the adrenalin inducing kind of activities you could do without, mid way through labour!
But all is not lost! Here are 10 things you can do in labour to keep the oxytocin flowing, if things need ramping up a notch or two!
- Cuddles, kisses, touch and lots of it! Oxytocin is known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, and actually, any enjoyable touch increases the body’s production of it! So make the most of your birth partner, get them to stroke or rub your back, braid your hair, hold you close or give you a snog! They’ll all help!
- Play that funky music! The best way to maximise oxytocin production is to use ALL your senses! Music can be a great trigger for remembering happy or relaxing moments- have a playlist of tunes that remind you of great memories and another that you’ve listened to whilst relaxing or practicing hypnobirthing whilst pregnant.
- Watch a funny movie, a stand up comic or anything that will make you laugh! This is a great one for early labour, for one- it’s a great distraction and two- when you’re smiling, you’re making oxytocin!
- Lavender! Talking of utilising all the senses, lavender oil scent is known to be relaxing and totally safe in pregnancy. Take some lavender baths whilst you’re pregnant and you’ll associate the smell with feeling relaxed too!
- Listen to some hypnobirthing scripts, if you’ve been practicing hypnobirthing throughout your pregnancy. Getting your partner to read them to you, is a great way to relax, and pump out that oxytocin!
- Hungry? Eggs, banana and dark chocolate are all said to increase oxytocin production.. did somebody say banana choc chip pancakes?! The sugar will help give you a burst of energy too.
- Go for a walk. Exercise releases endorphins and increases oxytocin, both great for the feel good factor! Now’s not the time for a full workout, you need to preserve some of that energy, but I’ve even known some mums turn up to pregnancy yoga in early labour!
- Nipple stimulation.. ok maybe not one for hanging out at home in early labour, but if things stall or start to slow down, ask for some space and give it go! Oxytocin is key in breastfeeding too, and your body is so close needing to feed a baby, it’s only logical that it works!
- Dim the lights, shut the doors! If you’ve ever had a pregnant pet cat, you’ll know that they find the tiniest little secret den to give birth in. And that’s ALL for oxytocin! Oxytocin is only produced when we are feeling safe, which is why we see many women’s contractions slow down when they get to hospital! If you’re having a home Birth, find the spot that you feel safe, if you’re in hospital don’t be afraid to ask for space, turn out the lights or even find a little corner or bathroom space if it helps!
- Now my favourite one.. stroke a dog! (hence the picture) Apparently stroking a pet or looking at pictures of puppies makes you release oxytocin! YouTubing cute baby and puppy videos can’t do any harm at least! I might just pin this photo to the wall if we every try for number 2!)