Overview of hormones in labour

Overview of hormones in labour

Hopefully you can now see how important it is for your hormones to be working with you in labour.

As they are very important, let’s just go over the main points once more.

  • Towards the end of your pregnancy progesterone levels start to decrease to allow the oxytocin levels to rise.
  • Your oxytocin levels, the nurturing hormones or hormones of love, begin to rise. This happens after your baby sends out a signal that it is ready to be born.
  • During this process, the levels of oxytocin rise and your Braxton Hicks, or practice tightening’s, begin to increase.
  • The practice tightenings are generally lower down in the uterus muscles and around 10 -40 seconds in length.
  • You can experience these from 3-4 weeks before labour starts or three or four days, sometimes only a few hours. There is no wrong way of experiencing these, they are a positive sign that tells you, your body is getting ready for birth.
  • As you begin to have more frequent tightening’s, your body starts to release more oxytocin. Because you are pregnant your body knows that it needs to make oxytocin receptors in the uterus muscle layers. Like a lock and key effect.
  • The more oxytocin, the more receptors are made. The whole system is designed to work perfectly!!
  • As this is happening we also have other hormones called Endorphins.
  • Beta-endorphins are released in labour to allow you to enter a special birthing mindset. These powerful hormones also can make us feel like we are in a dream like state or make us forget and lose perception of things like time. They also may be the reason we become forgetful in pregnancy. You may find yourself leaving the socks in the fridge or leaving the door open when you leave the house! These are all normal things!
  • These hormones start being released in pregnancy and they help us in birth too.
  • Endorphins are your body’s own natural pain killer, in great numbers they are much more powerful than drugs that we are offered in labour.
  • In a birth where you feel more relaxed and calm, these hormones are released in huge quantities and help us to remain more comfortable if let alone to work as they should.
Role of Adrenaline in labour

Adrenalin is our fight or flight response.  It helps protect us. Therefore if you feel threatened in labour, your brain may suspect you are not safe, if you are not safe your brain, nor your body may want to give birth. As you have just learnt, it is meant to be helpful in labour to protect us and our baby.

However, it is also thought to be useful in the second phase of labour when we are giving birth.

There are some things you can do to help minimise this response.

  • Learn some breathing techniques to help you relax.
  • Perhaps you could have some music ready to listen to in labour.
  • Your birth partner could use gentle touch massage techniques to help increase the levels of positive birthing hormones in labour, we will look at some of these in another lesson.
  • Have objects that help you to relax, a blanket that smells of your own home, or a picture of other children. You could use the blanket or pillow to breath in to help relax your senses.