All right, maybe labor isn’t as easy or relaxing as my title makes it sound, but it can be an empowering experience. I say “can be” because there are numerous factors that go into the experience. One of those factors is the cocktail of hormones that your body produces during labor. Although this cocktail is individualized for every woman during their labor, the use for each hormone produced is the same. It is extremely helpful to know what and why you feel this way or that way in anticipation of meeting your little nugget(s).
Much like when you’ve had one too many drinks, labor can make you feel like you have no control over your body, but really, you do have control. Remember it’s your body, you have grown this baby and you will deliver this baby. No one can do it for you. Also, remember that knowledge is power and the more you educate yourself on the natural process of childbirth, the more you’ll understand what’s happening when the moment comes—no matter the method your nugget is born.
The reality is, you may not remember all of what you learned during pregnancy, and this is why it’s important to include the person that will be by your side during labor—so they understand too. They might even have some of this cocktail going on during labor as well, although it wouldn’t be as strong of a concoction.
The Hormonal Cocktail menu, now being served during labor 24/7 at any hospital, birth center, or home birth…
The Flaming Volcano (Oxytocin)
*The Flaming Volcano will make you explode with all things good. It may even bring on a baby, pregnant or not. ::insert winking emoji here::*
This is probably my favorite hormone of them all. Like many other hormones, oxytocin isn’t only released during labor. This hormone is and should be an important part of our daily lives as it helps lessen stress, and heightens feelings of trust, love, and bonding. Oxytocin can be produced by indulging in the simple pleasures of life such as hugging, kissing, and smiling. This hormone is important for labor because it is the main hormone that contracts the uterus during labor. It brings on and helps the contractions that will help push your baby out. Oxytocin…
- means“fast birth”.
- is an antagonist to adrenaline. (Very important as too much adrenaline during labor can slow it down or stop it altogether.)
- is highest after the delivery of your baby.
- is needed to disengage your placenta and limit bleeding when you birth your placenta.
- induces maternal behavior and helps stimulate the release of milk in the mother’s mammary glands.
The Painkiller (Endorphins)
*Need a way out of your pain? The Painkiller can help with that. Order up and drink fast.*
Endorphins are another good hormone to know how to bring about during labor (if they aren’t being produced naturally by your body). Endorphin(s)…
- are the body’s natural pain relief. They act as a natural opiate helping a woman undergoing labor to endure the discomfort brought on by strong contractions.
- reduce effects of stress, induce feelings of pleasure and euphoria.
- levels in a laboring woman are equivalent to those in a marathon runner.
- compare to drugs like morphine and codeine, except they don’t lead to addiction or dependency.
- in high levels after birth will help surpass the “baby blues” that many women feel postpartum.
So how do you cause your body to make endorphins? Like oxytocin, it’s not difficult to bring on these hormones. Most of the time, our thoughts take over and cause us to think we can’t feel happy or pain-free. Try laughing wholeheartedly, having sex (this one will be a little difficult during labor), listening to relaxing music or sniffing aromas like lavender or vanilla. Additionally, endorphins are also produced naturally in response to pain and stress, so you can be producing them without even trying. We all know stress creeps up on us without an invitation.
The Jamaican Me Crazy (Adrenaline)
*Need a rush of energy? Order a shot of the Jamaican Me Crazy.*
**Warning – Too much of this may cause you to go crazy.**
Adrenaline is known as the “fight or flight” hormone and is triggered by a list of feelings and things such as: hunger, fear, bright lights, feeling cold, stress, and/or extreme pain. Adrenaline helps labor by supplying the mother with the energy needed to push her baby out; however, too much adrenaline can cause labor to slow down or stop altogether, so there is a fine line to be aware of, mommas. Adrenaline…
- is a short-term hormone.
- also assists the newborn in being bright-eyed, bushytailed (possibly), and alert when meeting his/her momma for the first time.
The Slippery Nipple (Prolactin)
*Pumping and dumping? No need to worry when drinking the Slippery Nipple. When you drink this, your baby will end up drunk off of your nutritious milk.*
- is the hormone that helps with the production of breastmilk.
- is the nesting/mothering hormone. It allows for the mother’s surrender and submission (putting baby’s needs first).
- allows for tolerance of monotony (ordinary maternal tasks such as nap, wake up, change baby’s dirty diaper, feed baby, repeat).
- is released by partners too. The more a partner interacts with baby, the more they release prolactin. Yes, this means that female or male partners can lactate too.
The Beachside Hangout (Melatonin)
*Have you had a long day? Order yourself the Beachside Hangout, find a dark room, and feel yourself drift off to dreamland.*
- is referred to as the “dark hormone” because it helps us sleeps.
- is released at night or in a dark environment.
- reduces activity of the neocortex (the part of the brain stimulated by language).
- is nature’s solution to all the noise and lights. It helps close a laboring woman’s neocortex (“thinking brain”) during labor in order for her to focus and simply do.
Hormones work on the body and brain if allowed to do their job without any intrusions—they will transform a person when give the ability to. There are a number of additional hormones that help women in their successful entrance to motherhood. I kept the list short.
Please feel free to add to my list of hormones or benefits of the hormones I listed. Let’s learn together.
Cheers to hormones!