By Jules Brooks

For some women who are about to birth the waiting for their baby to come can be challenging, particularly if you are past your ‘due date’.  Remember we have a ‘due month’, so anything from 37 weeks to 42 weeks is the normal time for a baby to come and every baby/mother has a different gestation period. A labour that starts naturally is more likely to end naturally.  We need you to be relaxed to help your hormones flow, but how can you best do this at a time that can be stressful? 

Understanding the role of the hormones can help.

Oxytocin:

Oxytocin is known as the hormone of love! It’s the hormone that makes us feel good, it’s the hormone you feel if you have been out with friends and you come home feeling happy and fulfilled, it’s the hormone you feel after making love with your partner.  It is also the hormone that creates contractions. So being relaxed, feeling loved, safe and cared for will help bring on labour.

Prolactin:

Prolactin is the hormone that helps us fall in love with our baby and produce breastmilk.  This is enhanced by skin to skin contact with your baby immediately after birth, the first hour after birth is important – it’s known as the ‘Golden Hour’ when we meet our baby for the first time.  During pregnancy it can make us emotional, more likely to cry during a sad movie, or when we see a baby, it’s the hormone that opens our heart to receive a baby.

Beta endorphins:

Known as ‘endorphins’ this hormone is released when we are in more active labour and is designed to act as our natural pain relief.  When women release endorphins during labour they are more internal and can feel sleepy, this is designed to be our natural version of morphine or pethidine and takes the edge off the intensity of the contractions. 

Women talk about going to ‘labourland’ where they get lost in the rhythm of the waves of the contractions. It is also present in breastmilk which we see in babies after they feed when they are all relaxed and sleepy.

Adrenaline or noradrenaline:

Mostly during pregnancy and birth we are wanting to stay away from adrenaline.  It triggers the fight and flight response and slows down the release of oxytocin.  As mammals in labour, we are very sensitive to our environment and if we experience a change to this environment that in some way makes us feel unsafe we release adrenaline.  It is the part of us that says it is no longer safe to be in labour and the adrenaline slows down the release of oxytocin. The most common example of this is the transition from home to hospital, travelling in the car, arriving at a hospital with bright lights, and the like. People asking questions can trigger the release of adrenaline and slow down the labour but settling into your birth room, dimming the lights, and playing music can help a woman relax and once again release oxytocin.

So knowing about the importance of these hormones how can use them while waiting for our babies to come.

Bliss Plan – I’m a big believer in the bliss plan. So you have finished work, yes you have stuff to do but this is a good time to prepare yourself for birth. We are wanting you to be as relaxed as possible so do things that make you feel good.  Massage, acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, having an afternoon nap or lunch with a friend.

Be active – First births can be long so maintaining a level of fitness will be helpful and can help with optimal birth positioning. Walking, swimming, yoga or whatever is your thing!

Birth meditations/breathing

Taking time everyday to be quiet, connect with your baby, do a visualization, practice your breathing.  This will help keep you grounded and relaxed while practicing your breathing for birth. This is especially important right now, with the added stress of living through a pandemic, so take time out to become grounded and de-stress.

Spending time with your partner – We have a saying in birth, how you made this baby, (with love) is how we are going to get your baby out! So being close with your partner doing things you love to do together, going for walks, snuggling on the couch, watching a movie is important.  Knowing the support they provide is not just for the labour but during the pregnancy also.

So these are all ways to help make use of our amazing hormones that we create to help you go into labour and move through your birth experience.  Relax and enjoy your journey into motherhood.

Jules Brooks is a Childbirth Educator, Doula and Co-Creator of About Birth, Australia’s leading online birth education program.  About Birth is a comprehensive online birth education program, endorsed by doctors and midwives and created by childbirth educators. The self-paced program is delivered by video modules and downloadable resources and covers everything a couple needs to know about giving birth, including the stages of labour, support, breathing, massage, positions, drugs, interventions, breast-feeding & more. Visit www.aboutbirth.com.au

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