Fight or Flight
Oxytocin is our ‘love’ hormone. It’s what the body releases when we have a cuddle, when we have sex, when we have an orgasm or when we have a laugh. Surprisingly, it is also the hormone that fuels labour.
Every single surge/urge/tightening/wave/contraction you experience in labour is fuelled by oxytocin. So much so that if you are induced, the drug you’re given is called ‘Syntocinon’ which is literally just synthetic oxytocin.
Labour is actually designed to feel GOOD. Whether you are induced or labour is spontaneous, your body is fuelled by the lovely oxytocin. The other hormone that can appear in labour is adrenaline. The body releases adrenaline when we’re stressed, frightened or anxious.
Unfortunately for a lot of people, those are the first emotions they experience when thinking about birth – so you can see how unhelpful that is.When our body releases adrenaline, our heart rate increases which in turn causes more circulating blood around our body. This causes our body to go into overdrive and enters ‘fight or flight’ mode, pumping more blood to your arms and your legs (and away from your uterus).
This is really unhelpful in labour, as your uterus is a muscle (yes muscle) that needs all of the oxygen rich blood to do its job effectively and more efficiently aka quicker and more comfortable labour.
In short, oxytocin will fuel your labour and adrenaline will hinder it.
So if you are reading this and thinking about your impending labour with your heart pounding through your chest, don’t forget labour is actually designed to feel good – it’s just up to us, to allow ourselves to find a way to believe this is actually possible.
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Kate Sedon is a Registered Nurse & Midwife who trained in Australia in 2007. She has settled down in The Coromandel, New Zealand, with her soulmate fisherman, two gorgeous sons, and their black lab.