Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

I was first introduced to oxytocin by Henci Goer’s book, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. Often referred to as the “love hormone,” it’s produced in our brain and released into the bloodstream during labor, causing the uterus to contract.

Then, my midwife Lisa mentioned oxytocin over coffee. That’s when I really got intrigued.

Not only is there is evidence that the spike in oxytocin upon baby’s birth is crucial to mother-baby bonding, she said, as it creates an outpouring of love, trust, contentment and calm during initial skin-to-skin contact… Some researchers believe oxytocin may affect our baby’s capacity to love throughout their entire life.

Is this something we should interfere with? When labor and birth unfold naturally, oxytocin helps us ride the waves of contractions with more ease, increase trust in our bodies and reduce fear. Ultimately, it helps us create a lasting, loving bond with our baby, and may help our baby carry that love into the world.

Can Pitocin, the synthetic form of oxytocin used to induce or augment labor, reproduce this effect? As usual, when man tries to copy Nature, we fall short.

Here’s how: Natural oxytocin hormone is released into your body in waves, creating rests and bursts, in a pulsing action by the hypothalamus. It is released intermittently to allow your body to have a break. At the end of the second stage, your body is primed to release a huge spike of oxytocin to help with the third stage of labor and mother-baby bonding.

On the other hand, synthetic Pitocin is given through an IV in a continuous manner, causing contractions to be longer and stronger than your baby or placenta may be able to handle, sometimes depriving your baby of oxygen. When too high a dose of Pitocin is given, waves of contractions can occur almost on top of each other, causing the resting tone of the uterus to increase.

Plus, when you are in labor naturally, your body responds to the contractions and oxytocin by releasing endorphins, a morphine-like substance that helps prevent and counteract pain. Pitocin blocks the release of these natural painkillers—making them more intense. (The effects that Pitocin has on the unborn baby are still not yet fully understood, though its use has been linked with increased medical intervention and Cesarean Sections.)

As Lisa and I chatted, I wanted to know more about how oxytocin could affect our capacity to love. She said some experts believe that through initiating their own birth, the fetus may be in training to secrete their own love hormones during their lives. Researcher Michel Odent, founder of the Primal Health Research Centre in London, speaks passionately about matilda tickets nyc our society’s deficits in our capacity to love self and others and traces these problems back to the time around birth, and particularly interference to the oxytocin system.

Today researchers are using oxytocin in the treatment of autism. It makes you wonder. Perhaps Odent’s research has hit the mark and interrupting the process of natural oxytocin at the beginning of life is part of a larger societal problem.