Labor Hormones in Under 10 Minutes

Re-blogged from http://www.TransitionToParenthood.wordpress.com.

“Note: this page is about how to TEACH this concept to expectant parents. If you’re an expectant parent looking for info on labor hormones, their effect on labor pain, and what your partner can do to help you have a shorter and less painful labor, click here.

In my childbirth classes, and with doula clients, I want them to understand that our emotions, and the support we receive, absolutely affect labor on a physiological basis, by influencing our hormones. The big message is that fear and anxiety slow labor down and make it more painful. Support and feeling safe make labor faster and easier. I have simplified the complex details into a simple stick figure drawing that takes 5-10 minutes.

Before I talk about my teaching method, let’s start with a basic summary* of hormones:

Hormone What Does It Do What doesn’t help What does help
Oxytocin Causes labor contractions that dilate cervix Anxiety, bright lights, feeling observed, feeling judgedPitocin – if have synthetic oxytocin, make less hormonal oxytocin To increase oxytocin: Skin-to-skin contact.
Nipple stimulation, making love.To increase endorphins: social contact and support from loved ones.To increase oxytocin and endorphins and to reduce adrenaline: create an environment where we feel private, safe, not judged, loved, respected, protected, free to move about.(So, partners, if you remember nothing else about labor support, remember that if she feels safe, loved and protected her labor will be faster, and less painful)
Endorphins Relieve pain, reduce stress (cause euphoria and feelings of dependency) Stress, lack of supportNarcotics (if you have an external opiate, your body will start producing less internal opiate… even after the narcotics wear off, you’ll have less endorphins)
Catecholamines (adrenaline, etc.) In early / active labor: slow labor down(Imagine a rabbit in a field. If it doesn’t feel safe, it wants to keep baby inside to protect it)In pushing stage: Make you and baby alert and ready for birth, give you energy to push quickly.
(If the rabbit is about to have a baby, and something frightens it, it wants to get the baby out as quickly as possible so it can pick it up and run with it.)
Stress / anxiety / fearLack of control

Feeling trapped

Hunger, cold

 

So, in class how do I convey these ideas in just a few minutes, so it’s easy to understand and to remember?

First, I say: “In labor, our emotions and our environment effect our hormones. Our hormones have a huge effect on labor. Let’s look at a couple scenarios for labor.” [I draw two stick figures on the board.] “This one is awash in stress hormones which will make labor longer and more painful. Let’s label it adrenaline. This one is under the influence of oxytocin and endorphins. These help the laboring person shift into an altered state where labor pain is milder (less intense and less unpleasant) and also help labor progress more quickly.” [Add labels to drawings, add sad face and smiley face.]

Picture2

Then I say “So, you are all probably familiar with adrenaline. What do we call it? Yes, the fight or flight hormone. This is the idea that if an individual ran into a tiger in the woods, they would choose either to fight it or to run away. Do you know what we call oxytocin? Many call it “collect and protect” or “tend and befriend.” If a tiger is coming into our village, we gather everyone together, because we are safest together.” [I add these labels to my drawing.]  (I sometimes throw in the tidbit here that men who are not dads are more likely to release adrenaline during stressful situations; women and dads are more likely to release oxytocin – it’s the “gather the babies and protect them” response.)

Picture3

“So, what effect do these hormones have?”

“With adrenaline, all your muscles tighten. All your energy goes to your limbs in case you need to fight or run away. So, oxytocin production drops and labor slows down. (It’s hard for your cervix to open when you feel scared…)  You are also more sensitive to pain – this is useful if you’re at risk of injury – your body tells you what to move away from. But, in labor it’s not helpful – it just means labor hurts more!”

“With oxytocin and endorphins all your muscles relax. Energy is sent to the uterus and oxytocin increases. (Oxytocin is often called the love hormone, because it increases when we feel loved, and its peak levels are when we orgasm, when we birth, and when we breastfeed. It’s all about making babies, birthing babies, and feeding babies.) We also get an increased endorphin flow, which makes us less sensitive to pain, can cause euphoria, and can cause feelings of love and dependency in us… “I love you man….””

<<To read the rest of this article, click here>>

Pre-labour Rupture of Membranes: impatience and risk

wateroncarpetAmniotic sac and fluid play an important role in the labour process and usually remain intact until the end of labour. However, around 10% of women will experience their waters breaking before labour begins. The standard approach to this situation is to induce labour by using prostaglandins and/or syntocinon (aka pitocin) to stimulate contractions. The term ‘augmentation’ is often used instead of ‘induction’ for this procedure. Women who choose to wait are often told their baby is at increased risk of infection and they are encouraged to have IV antibiotics during labour. In my experience most women agree to have their labour induced rather than wait. I wonder how many of these women would choose a different path if they knew there was no significant increase in the risk of infection for their baby?

The rush to start labour and get the baby out after the waters have broken is fairly new. When I first qualified in 2001 the standard hospital advice (UK) for a woman who rang to tell us her waters had broken (and all else was well) was: “If you’re not in labour by [day of the week in 3 days time] ring us back.” Over the following years this reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours, then 24 hours, then 18 hours, then 12 hours and now 0 hours. You might assume that this change in approach was based on some new evidence about the dangers involved in waiting for labour. You would be wrong.

<<To read more of this informative entry, please click here>>

Membrane release before birth sensations begin, what to do?

wateroncarpet1. Drink plenty of fluids. Minimum: 8 glasses spaced throughout the day. Purified water with lemon squeezed in it is good.

2. Allow nothing in vagina. No fingers, no tampons, no oral-genital contact, no bath water, no swimming pool water, no speculum, no penis, nothing whatsoever!

3. Wear something loose-fitting with no panties.

4. If you are leaking and need something for sitting, use clean towels fresh out of a hot dryer.

5. Take your temperature every 4 hours while you are awake. Normal range is 35.5 to 37.3 Degrees Centigrade or 96 to 99 Degrees Fahrenheit. If it goes above the upper ranges, drink some water, retake it and if your temperature remains up call your medical person. It could be a sign of infection.

6. Take 250mg Vitamin C every 3 hours while you are awake. Oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, red peppers are all good sources.

7. No baths. Shower as much as you like.

8. Eat foods that are non-constipating and easy to digest. Especially avoid foods with MSG or nitrates, such as pizza, Chinese food, or deli meats. These foods can make you vomit in the birth process.

9. Be meticulous about toileting. Wipe from front to back, and wash hands carefully after.

l0. If the water is colored green or brown (meconium), or if it has a bad smell (sign of infection), let your medical person know.

<<To read more of this informative entry, click here>>

The Joys of Catching Your Own Baby

by Laura Shanley

Several years ago I came across an article in a major newspaper in which the author stated that women were physiologically incapable of delivering their own babies. Unfortunately I can’t quote from it directly, as I tossed it in the trash (after whipping off letters to both the author and the editor – neither of whom ever responded).

The essence of the article was that labor is painful so that women will seek outside support, and therefore have someone around to deliver their babies. The author then went to great lengths to show how anatomically it was impossible for a woman to reach around her belly and catch her emerging baby. Not only is this not true, it also shows a misunderstanding of the true causes for the majority of pain in labor – interference from within (primarily fear, shame, and guilt), and interference from without (constant poking, prodding, and testing).

Anthropologists have observed women delivering their own babies for centuries. Judith Goldsmith sites many examples of this in her book, Childbirth Wisdom from the World’s Oldest Societies.

There were numerous societies where women gave birth with no assistance at all. Among the Chukchee of Siberia, for example, where babies were born with little trouble, the birthing woman attended completely to her own needs and those of her newborn infant. She cut the umbilical cord and disposed of the placenta herself…..The Fulani woman of Africa also birthed without expecting any assistance, catching the infant as it was born in her own hands.

The truth is, not only is it not difficult for most laboring women to catch their own babies, in many cases it may be the most natural way to give birth.

A woman who is in touch with her body can feel the baby moving down the birth canal. She knows when it is about to emerge. An extra set of hands – no matter how caring and gentle – can actually be more of a distraction than a help. Yes, some women enjoy perineal massage, and I’m certainly not suggesting they deny themselves this pleasure. But many women find as they get closer to the birth their need for outside assistance diminishes. A power sweeps over them and suddenly they know they are capable of giving birth without any help at all – even if they choose not to.

{C}{C}For those women who do choose to give birth into their own hands, the rewards can be enormous. Midwives often speak of “the thrill of the catch.” As a woman who has caught several of her own babies I totally agree it is a thrill like no other. But shouldn’t this thrill be reserved for the woman herself, or possibly her partner? “Tear prevention” is the most common excuse given for denying a couple this joy. Yet when a woman is relaxed and unafraid, her vagina will expand. There are also many natural ways of aiding this expansion prior to the moment of birth – warm compresses placed on the woman’s perineum during labor, sitting in water, and the afore mentioned perineal massage.

People occasionally say to me, “Oh, you’re the woman who believes women should catch their own babies.” I always tell them this is not true. My husband caught our first child and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. In that birth I felt compelled to deliver on my hands and knees. I had no impulse to catch the baby myself and physiologically it would have been difficult. In subsequent labors, however, I chose to give birth into my own hands simply because it felt like the right thing to do (the fact that I was alone at the time might have contributed to that decision!).

If I were to have another child, I wouldn’t insist on catching the baby myself. I don’t present “self-delivery” as some sort of ideal to strive for. But I think it’s important for women to know that should they decide to catch their own babies, they’re more than capable of doing it.

<<To read more from Laura Shanley, click here>>

The Lie of the Estimated Due Date (EDD):

Why Your Due Date Is Not What You Think –

We have it ingrained in our heads throughout our entire adult lives-pregnancy is 40 weeks. The “due date” we are given at that first prenatal visit is based upon that 40 weeks, and we look forward to it with great anticipation. When we are still pregnant after that magical date, we call ourselves “overdue” and the days seem to drag on like years. The problem with this belief about the 40 week EDD is that it is not based in fact. It is one of many pregnancy and childbirth myths which has wormed its way into the standard of practice over the years-something that is still believed because “that’s the way it’s always been done”.

<<To read the rest of this article, click here>>

WAIT! Don’t Wash That Newborn!

Via Raising Natural Kids Blog
“When I had my daughter, I made sure that the hospital staff did not give her a bath. I had done my research and learned that the vernix offers so many benefits and protection to a newborn, thus, why the baby is born covered in it to begin with. The vernix needs time to be absorbed into the baby’s skin; it is the best form of moisturizer that, unfortunately, money can’t buy! This combined with the fact that a newborn is not born dirty (contrary to popular belief) and the fact that he/she doesn’t need any type of chemical/additives that may be in what the hospital uses to bathe him/her are the reasons I wanted to wait and bathe my daughter at home. If you doubt my claim that babies are being washed with harsher soaps, please note that many hospitals use regular soap, and others use the wipes found through this link – I have not been able to find the ingredients to these, but, based on what I have found, they don’t look to be what I consider non-toxic by any means! Sage Cleansing Washcloths and one hospital’s take on bath wash: Parkland Memorial.

That being said, when I read Jennifer Azzariti’s article on Eco18.com about the importance of the vernix, I wanted to share it with you all. Both she and Eco18 graciously let me repost her article here! This is a shortened version. You can read her whole article on Eco18.com

WAIT! DON’T WASH THAT NEWBORN!

A Guest post by Jennifer Azzariti

Have you ever watched a television show where a baby is born and laughed as they hand the new mom a clean, approximately 8-week old baby? Most people are well-aware that babies are born with a slimy mucus-like covering on them. For years I just assumed it was from being inside of the mom’s uterus—leftover amniotic fluid or something that surrounded the baby while in utero. Well, this stuff has a name—vernix. And by definition, it’s “a white cheeselike protective material that covers the skin of a fetus.” But, what is it, and why do babies have it?

Vernix is produced during the third trimester and it provides a temporary skin barrier for the watery environment babies live in while in utero. According to Cosmetics & Toiletries Sciences Applied, the prenatal functions of vernix include:” waterproofing, since due to the low surface energy, vernix caseosa is highly unwettable; the facilitation of the skin formation in utero; and protection of the fetus from acute or sub-acute chorioamnionitis (an inflammation of the outer (chorion) and inner (amnion) fetal membranes due to a bacterial infection). During delivery, vernix caseosa acts as a lubricant while postnatally, it exhibits antioxidant, skin cleansing, temperature-regulating and antibacterial properties.”
gif
Proven to have such great benefits postnatally, it makes you wonder why we are in such a rush to give newborns their first bath—removing the vernix.

Modern science and Western Medicine recognizes the benefits of vernix. A study regarding the significance of vernix was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 191 (6), 2090-2096, titled: Antimocrobial Properties of Amniotic Fluid and Vernix Caseosa are Similar to Those Found in Breast Milk. This study revealed that a number of immune substances were present in both amniotic fluid and vernix samples. Tests using antimicrobial growth inhibition essays show these substances are effective at deterring the growth of common perinatal pathogens— group B. Streptococcus, K. pneumoniae, L. monocytogenes, C. albicans and E. coli.

Results from this study brought into question the practices commonly used when treating newborns. The study suggests that baby’s first bath should be delayed until at least twenty-four hours after birth. The Department of Health in conjunction with the World Health Association has set-forth a protocol for newborns, and in the section regarding thorough immediate drying of the baby (0-3 minutes after birth), it says “Do not wipe off vernix,” and “Do not bathe the newborn.” The protocol later states that you should wait at least six hours to wash the baby.

<<To read the rest of this entry, click here.>>