Most of us have come to learn that the "squeaky wheel gets the grease," the tallest person in the room often gets noticed first, and bright colors attract more attention. But when you boil it down, it's typically the things we can't see or hear that matter most. So is the case with pregnancy and birth hormones. Google "birth" and you'll find all kinds of information about labor, contractions, writing a birth plan, whether or not to choose an epidural, packing your hospital bag, choosing a baby name, etc., etc. What you don't find much of -- at least, in mainstream media -- is information about birth hormones. But guess what? These hormones are responsible for driving the processes of labor, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting! And what's more -- interfering with these hormones can cause major changes in how your give birth, and you and your baby's health outcomes. Pretty important, right?
Today, Childbirth Connection, the core program of the National Partnership for Women and Families, released an exciting and valuable new report called the "Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies, and Maternity Care,” written by Dr. Sarah Buckley, a physician who also specializes in pregnancy, birth, and parenting writing and research. The report provides an in-depth review of all of the most recent scientific research on the role that hormones play during pregnancy, labor, birth, and early parenting. But perhaps most importantly, Dr. Buckley points out the medical practices and routines (which, unfortunately, are over-used in our maternity care system) that interfere with the work and benefits of these birth hormones, and how they can affect the process and outcomes. For example, did you know that being exposed to pitocin for an extended period of time (as is typical with an induction or augmented labor) can negatively impact how labor progresses and increase risk of postpartum hemorrhage (excessive bleeding)?
Over the next six weeks, Giving Birth with Confidence will post more detailed information from the report and how it relates to and aligns with the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices. We'll share recommendations from both sources, with the intent to guide you in having the most healthy birth possible. In the meantime, we encourage to review the various pieces of the complete report, including the easy-to-digest companion booklet written specifically for women and families. For now, I leave you with an introduction to the key players in this report (drum roll, please).... the birth hormones:
[BAY-ta en-DOR-fins] help relieve stress and pain around the time of birth.
[CAT-ah-KOL-ah-meens] help you and your baby feel alert and ready for birth, and they help protect your baby’s heart and brain during strong labor contractions.
[PRO-lack-tin] is called the “mothering hormone.” Its many roles include helping your breasts make milk.
(Source: Pathway to a Health Birth: How to Help Your Hormones Do Their Wonderful Work by Childbirth Connection)