O is for Oxytocin

Oxytocin is is the hormone of love and the hormone of labor. Working together during labor, love and oxytocin help to keep contractions coming. And once baby’s here, oxytocin also plays a role in breastmilk production and bonding with your baby. It’s a pretty powerful thing!

Oxytocin and Love

You know that warm, connected feeling you have when you are connected with your partner? It’s the love hormone. Whether it’s snuggling, having sex, or just a doing a fun activity together, that close connection with your partner causes oxytocin levels to rise. The “love hormone” helps create a bond between you and your partner and increases the trust between you. All of these things can be beneficial when you are in labor too.

Oxytocin in Labor

During labor, the rise in oxytocin levels causes contractions and keeps labor progressing. The more connected you are with your partner through cuddling, slow dancing, making out, massage, sex, laughing together, or nipple stimulation, the stronger and more frequent your contractions will be.  

If you find your labor slowing down and are wondering what you can do to speed things up, we suggest checking the following things:

  • Rest – have you had a chance to rest your body? Whether you sleep, rest in the shower, soak in the tub, is your body cuing you to rest? It may be 20 minutes of rest, or a few hours, either way, resting can help labor achieve its goal.
  • Eating and hydration – when last did you eat something? If you are at the hospital, you may be restricted to clear liquids like water, broth, or gatorade. Most hospitals will order a clear liquid tray from the cafeteria. You’ve been working hard! Getting some nutrients can help labor pick back up. Staying hydrated is super important. So keep taking those sips between contractions. Other ideas for labor approved liquids are herbal tea with honey, vitamin water, or water infused with fruits.
  • Activity – are you alternating periods of rest and activity during labor? There may be times your body is nudging you to get moving. And by moving we just want you to know, standing and swaying by the bed, pacing in your room, doing circles on the birth ball all count as activity in labor.

Intersperse these 3 things with connecting with your partner. Just as you rotate through different positions, you can rotate through these activities and snuggling with you partner, which will help increase your oxytocin levels.

Oxytocin, Breastmilk, and Bonding

Oxytocin also plays a very important role in the postpartum period as your body returns to its non-pregnant state and as you build a bond with your baby.

The oxytocin produced while breastfeeding causes your uterus to continue cramping. This cramping can be unpleasant, but it only lasts a few weeks as your uterus is shrinking back to its non-pregnant size.

After your baby is born, your body keeps producing oxytocin which causes the letdown reflex to occur when you breastfeed. This reflex helps your milk get from the milk glands to the nipple. While all this letdown and cramping are going on, the oxytocin is also helping you bond with your baby. It increases your awareness to your baby’s scent and cues for hunger or attention.

Partners, you also produce oxytocin and therefore can experience this bonding effects with your little one. Spending time skin to skin is a great way to keep that connection.

Just like love, oxytocin keeps us moving forward and strengthens our relationships. What have  YOU done today to boost your oxytocin?

 

Written by Lois Perks and Hancie Stokes


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