Oxytocin - the most amazing hormone .....

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In hypnobirthing, we talk about releasing oxytocin a lot. Why? Because, during labour, oxytocin is the powerful hormone that will bring on contractions. If we are stressed, oxytocin release can be hampered by cortisol, the fight or flight hormone thus slowing down labour and making it painful.

Sir Henry Dale discovered the hormone in 1906 and named it oxytocin from the Greek words for ‘quick’ and childbirth labour’ because he realised it could speed up the birthing process. He later found out it also promotes lactation! It is a hormone produced by the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland.

Oxytocin has been called the shy hormone, the love hormone, the cuddle hormone - it’s the hormone you produce when you fall in love, have an orgasm, meet your baby, breastfeed, massage your baby. It will make you feel more affectionate and selfless.

During a hypnobirth labour, because you’ll be feeling calm, confident and in control, the release of oxytocin will enable you to remain calm and help with minimising pain from contractions during labour. Your baby will also produce oxytocin before and during labour.

If you have an induction, you may be put on a syntocinon drip, which is synthetic oxytocin. This can speed up your contractions massively and can be quite a shock experiencing full on contractions after building up gradually!

Our bodies produce oxytocin naturally - towards the end of your pregnancy, your oxytocin levels wiill rise - this is often when you start to experience Braxton Hicks - practice contractions that help to prepare and strengthen the uterus muscles in readiness for labour. Braxton Hicks are triggered by the rise of the oxytocin.

When your baby is ready to be born, the oxytocin receptors in your body are activated when your progesterone levels fall and oestrogen levels rise. As your baby moves down into your cervix, a signal is sent to your pituitary gland to release more oxytocin.

During the final stage of labour, you’ll get a surge of oxytocin so, if you’re having a vaginal birth, it will help you along with breathing baby down.

Even after birth, oxytocin will enable you to feel more relaxed, and able to bond with your baby. Aditionally, it helps with the let-down reflex during breastfeeding and protects you against postpartum haemorrhage.

Skin-to-skin contact increases oxytocin release, which is why it’s really important (if possible) to spend those immediate few moments after birth with your baby - partners can also get in on this action by lying closely together with mum and baby!

During breastfeeding, oxytocin is released and this increases the transfer of nutrients into breastmilk.

Like I said, oxytocin - the most amazing hormone …..