The Role of Hormones During Labor
Hormones are basically chemical “messengers” that your body creates to help with function. The role of hormones during labor is crucial for a peaceful birth. Basically, they can change the way your uterus contract, your stress and anxiety levels, and help make labor and birth go smoothly and safely for you and your baby.
How Hormones Work During Labor
Labor requires you to be focused and many moms go deep within themselves and enter a state we call “labor land” or “the zone”. The complex interaction of hormones working in your body while in labor are affected by your environment. These hormones play a big role in your pain level and your progression through labor.
Also known as the “love hormone”, Oxytocin stimulates the uterus to contract and helps lower stress levels. It is released during sexual activity, breastfeeding and are at their height moments after the birth of your child.
Adrenalin is a catecholamine and is released in response to stress, fear, and anxiety. Oxytocin and adrenaline work against each other. If something scares or disrupts you during labor, your oxytocin levels will lower and possibly slows your labor. The catecholamine’s give you the needed surge of energy during the second stage of labor just moments before you birth your baby.
How Relaxation Improves the Right Hormonal Balance
While relaxation helps to increase oxytocin, bright lights, loud noise, restrictions or lack of support can all cause the laboring person to become fearful. This can cause your body to go into the “fight or flight” mode creating a cycle of fear. To labor most effectively, the neocortex, or thinking part of the brain should receive as little stimulation as possible. Create a supportive, peaceful environment where you receive compassion, and love from caring respecting support people. This decreases activity in the neocortex and allows your hindbrain to take over allowing you to follow the instincts and urges of your body and find your way to “labor land”.
If you have unresolved fears, it can change the release of hormones during labor and potentially affect your or your baby’s health. It is very important to work through them ahead of time. The more relaxed and calm your body is, the more comfortable your labor and birth will be. Find your “happy place” whether it was someplace special you visited, or someplace you’ve longed to visit, or plan to. Spend time thinking about how you want your birth to go. See yourself letting go and submitting to your body’s inherent ability to labor and birth.
There are multiple ways your birth can be more comfortable and less painful. Knowing what to expect, and having the right physical and emotional support are key for relaxation. This could be done by one, or multiple people involved. Someone with who respects your wishes provides tremendous benefits including comfort and pain relief during labor. This partner can by your spouse, doula, friend, or family member. You can consider additional people to be a part of your “birth team” as well and assign each person a different role.
Relaxation Is Key
Relaxation is key as it will help keep you as comfort during labor. The more you are relaxed the easier it will be for your body to labor and birth. The most effective relaxation includes keeping physically relaxed, mentally focused, and having a calm demeanor. Ideas to help you relax during labor include:
- Counter pressure
- Deep breathing
- Moving around
- Hot and cold compresses
- Shower or bath
- Wearing comfortable clothing (your own)
- Drinking plenty of fluids (or receive IV fluids)
Relaxation helps to increase oxytocin which further helps to lower the stress level.
Choose the Right Birth Team
An important consideration when assembling your team is to choose the right partners for the best childbirth support. You want to invite people who respect your decisions, who wholeheartedly support you and who make you feel safe and comfortable. You do not want to invite anyone who may cause tension or stress. Relaxation is key to a shorter and more comfortable birth. Inviting anyone who will disrupt your ability to relax is not advised.
Understanding yourself can be very helpful when determining what will work for you while laboring. Some women prefer to be alone, while others prefer company, even a group in some cases. Carefully consider your personal preference. You can assign different team members different roles. For example, you mom could be your doula. Your sister could be the photographer. You may have a professional photographer picked out. You can also have an online doula helping you. This person would be a member of your birth team. While some may want to be surrounded by loved ones early on, other may want a small team such as their partner and doula as the labor progresses.
Every woman is different and will benefit from different techniques for relaxation during labor. Having a birth coach and doula support will further improve relaxation and decrease stress. Other ways to be relaxed is to plan for what needs to be plan on time. For example, planning the baby nursery early rather than late, dealing with insurance coverage, etc. could decrease some unnecessary stress. Maximizing the role of your birth hormones will definitely go a long way into a peaceful birth.
The information contained on this site should not be construed as medical advice nor should it replace the advice and individual care of your health care provider.
Hi, I’m Susan Finazzo! I’m a certified Birth Doula, Birth coach, and Childbirth Educator from Port St Lucie, Florida. In addition to that, I am also a Faith-Based Counselor. I have over 10 years experience helping women having a positive birthing experience and would love to make a difference on yours too!