I bloody love hormones.
They’re so clever. Our bodies are so carefully and intricately designed to birth our babies and hormones play a starring role.
Labour is ultimately triggered and propelled by the lovely hormone Oxytocin.
Oxytocin drives the contractions but it also makes us feel warm, safe, loved and kinda cozy. Sounds nice huh. Like that lovely melty feeling after kissing someone you really like. Or the first cup of tea when you get home form a long day. A putting on your favourite pyjamas kind of feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you watch a romantic movie. When you hug someone you love. It’s released when we eat chocolate and look at pictures of impossibly cute big eyes, fluffy furred baby animals. Picture some otters holding hands and your oxytocin levels are going wild. It’s also the hormone which fuels good sex. The hormone we release in waves when we orgasm. The hormone we had when we made that baby in the first place, either via the traditional way or when we began those tentative and exciting IVF conversation.
Oxytocin. She’s a dream. The Queen of hormones. She’s a big player. She’s a leading lady BUT she’s shy. She doesn’t like to come out in times of stress. She’s like a really cute mouse. A big doe eyes Dormouse (google ‘cute Dormouse and you’ll get it)
Stress creates an entirely different set of hormones. Most not so helpful. Namely Adrenaline and Cortisol. These guys slow EVEYTHING down. Which is great because that’s what they are designed to do. Adrenaline is designed to stop non essential functions such as our uterus, which in times of stress in generally pretty useless. Big bad guy, what’s your uterus going to do? Natural disaster? Nope it’s got nothing. Instead Adrenaline focusses on providing our limbs with blood so we can run and fight. It speeds up our heart and makes us sweat. So we are ready to exert ourselves to run away from danger or knock that bad guy over. Cortisol helps too, it is designed to make us feel uncomfortable so we move away from the stressful situation and avoid those places in future.
Here’s the thing, and it’s simple, it makes complete sense. We are not supposed to go into labour when we are stressed or when we feel we are in danger. That’s a very simple design tool that makes complete sense… until it doesn’t.
Once upon a time the main things which stressed us out where big huge bears, enemy tribes looting our village, huge fires, sabre tooth tigers. You know the usual ancient threats. Now it’s traffic, arguing with your partner, getting your birth bag ready, Birth itself.
You see the evolution of birth has not kept pace with cultural evolution. Our bodies release stress hormones preparing us to fight when there is nothing to fight. Getting us ready to run when there is nowhere to go. The worst bit is that the more Adrenalin we have the less Oxytocin wants to come out. If Oxytocin is a mouse Adrenaline is a big pushy tom cat. With a big fuzzy tail who walks all over your stuff and sits right down in the middle. He’s great, but sometimes he’s in the way, and there is no way a little Dormouse is showing her face when he’s about.
There is a saving grace of the stress hormone family in labour. It’s name is beta endorphins. Which is a gorgeous hormone. It comes in times of stress when we move or are given positive physical stimulation. So we release it when our bodies respond to pressure. When we run. When we dance. When we take big breaths. It’s our bodies natural, and very effective, pain killer. It can help us move through contractions more comfortably. It can give us a euphoric feeling. A kick. A delicious high. Help us rise the waves of labour, cushion us against pain and enjoy it. Really enjoy it.
So what do we do with this hormone knowledge then? How do we get our shy Oxytocin to come out onto centre stage? How do we get the Endorphins but less of the Cortisol and Adrenaline?
Well it can be done. Hypnobirthing techniques can give you simple ways to hack your hormones. To breathe and move. To undo negative though patterns to help stem the flow of stress hormones and give oxytocin a chance to do her thing. Breathing, affirmations, visualisation and listening to hypnobirthing scripts can have a huge impact on your body and hormone production. You have far more control over this than you know. You really do.
Let’s figure this out together, send me a message and lets chat about how to make your birth better for you and get that Dormouse to come centre stage.