No one can dispute that human beings are pretty good at reproducing. It is therefore safe to assume that the female body is equipped with what it needs to have to create a baby. A womb, to grow and keep baby safe, and a birth canal, to provide an exit route for baby to be born. It sounds simple. However, there is a lot happening physiologically in our body to make it all work smoothly. Most of this will happen ‘automatically’ if we let it! And this is where you come in. What you say, think and do can stop labour in its tracks. Or what you say, think and do can help your body do exactly what it needs to do to birth your baby easily and comfortable.

Firstly, let’s understand what’s going on. To give birth, your uterus muscles need contractions (or surges) to pull up, move out of the way and for your cervix to dilate. Your muscles then push your baby down through the birth canal to be born. There is one very important hormone responsible for all of this OXYTOCIN. This is the hormone responsible for bringing on labour, regulating, maintaining and strengthening contractions (or surges). Essentially, Oxytocin allows your baby to be born. And you need it in bucket loads during labour and birth.

Oxytocin has three nicknames: the Love Hormone, the Feel Good Hormone and the Shy Hormone. Why? Because we release Oxytocin when we fall in love and make love, have a cuddle, stroke a cat, laugh. It’s that warm ‘fuzzy’ feeling we have when we are feeling happy. To produce it during birth, you will need to feel loved, happy, as well as safe, relaxed and unobserved (that’s where the ‘Shy’ bit comes in).

Now, you’ve got the picture about Oxytocin, there is a bit more science you need to understand. We have two nervous systems: para-sympathetic (which produces Oxytocin) and sympathetic, which produces ADRENALIN. I’m sure you’re familiar with this one. Adrenalin is the enemy of birth. This is our ‘fear’ hormone, which is designed to stimulate our ‘fight or flight’ response. It raises our heart rate, quickens our breathing, to pump oxygen rich blood quickly to our arms and legs. It has served us well over millennia, when we needed to fight off a sabre toothed tiger or run away from a herd of stampeding buffalos. It does not serve us well when we are trying to give birth to our baby in the 21st century. The key thing to understand is that you cannot produce Oxytocin at the same time as Adrenaline.

And yet, there are so many things during labour and birth, which may cause you to produce Adrenalin and this is what I mean by self-sabotage. Firstly, you’re probably feeling nervous about birth in the first place, which is not your fault, as you have been brought up to think of birth as something extremely hard, painful and therefore something to fear. Secondly, most of us choose to give birth in the unfamiliar surroundings of a hospital (which is usually where we go when we are sick) and will therefore increase our feelings of anxiety. Thirdly, during birth we undergo vaginal examinations or monitoring, which is uncomfortable as well as an invasion of our personal space. Fourthly, we go to a brightly lit room, with sterile smells and lots of unfamiliar faces. It is no wonder that our body starts producing Adrenalin, and we stop producing Oxytocin.

This is why it is really common for a woman to be labouring at home and having regular, strengthening surges (3 in every 10 minutes, lasting for about a minute) and then to travel to hospital feeling uncomfortable in the car and worrying about the traffic, wait to be booked in, be strapped to a monitor and have a vaginal examination, moved to the labour ward and no surprise her contractions have all but stopped, her labour has stalled. All because of Adrenalin. I know none of us set out to let this happen, but it does - all the time. So, you need to maximise the chances of producing Oxytocin and minimise the chances of producing Adrenalin.

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