The Hormonal Blueprint for Labour and Birthing

Michel Odent writes:

The brain releases a cocktail of hormones during labour, which is the blueprint for having an enjoyable and even ecstatic birth.   As women this is our birthright.  These birthing hormones take us outside our usual state, so that we are transformed on every level.  This amazing hormonal cascade unfolds optimally when birth is undisturbed, enhancing safety for both mother and baby.  Science is also increasingly discovering, what mothers already know, that the way we birth affects both mother and child for a lifetime.

There are four major hormonal systems active during labour and birthing.

  1. Oxytocin – the hormone of love
  2.   Endorphins  –  hormones of pleasure and transcendence
  3. Epinephrine and Norepinephrine  –  hormones of excitement
  4. Prolactin –  the mothering hormoneThese systems are common to all mammals and originate in our mammalian or middle brain.  For birth to proceed optimally, this part of the brain must take precedence over the neocortex, or rational brain.  This shift can be helped by an atmosphere of quiet and privacy, eg. Dim lighting, little conversation and a labouring woman who feels safe and well supported.  If these conditions are right then a woman intuitively will choose the movements, sounds, breathing and positions that will birth her baby most easily.  This is her genetic and hormonal blueprint.

    All of these systems are adversely affected by current birth practices.  Hospital environments, policies, protocols and routines are not conducive to the shift in consciousness that giving birth normally requires.  A woman’s hormonal physiology is further disturbed by practices such as induction, the use of painkillers and epidurals, caesarean surgery and separation of mother and baby after birth.