Induction and Augmentation

In Australia the Induction rate is increasing – approximately 20-30%.  In private hospitals it can be much higher.  Similar percentages with augmentation – speeding up of the labour.  This is done with synthetic oxytocin (syntocinon).

Synthetic oxytocin administered in labour does not act like the body’s own oxytocin.  These contractions are different from natural contractions, described by many women as extremely intense with little chance of a break between contractions.  These differences can cause reduced blood flow to the baby.

Syntocinon, introduced into the body by I.V. infusion, does not act as the hormone of love.  However, it does provide the hormonal system with negative feedback – i.e. oxytocin receptors in the labouring woman’s body detect high levels of oxytocin and signal the brain to reduce production.  We know that women  with syntocinon infusions are at a higher risk of bleeding after the birth, because their own oxytocin production has been shut down.  But, we do not know the psychological effects of giving birth without the peak levels of oxytocin that nature prescribes for all mammalian species.

There are many experts that believe that through participating in this initiation of his own birth, the foetus may be training himself to secrete his own love hormone.  Michel Odent speaks passionately about our society’s deficits in our capacity to love self and others, and he traces these problems back to the time around birth, particularly to interference with the oxytocin system.

Opiate Painkillers

The most commonly used drug in Australian Hospitals (Delivery Suites and Birth Centres) is Pethidine/Morphine, administered I.M.  The use of Pethidine has probably declined over recent times as more and more women opt for epidurals.  As with oxytocin, use of opiate drugs will reduce a woman’s own hormone production.(21)  The use of Pethidine/Morphine has been shown to slow labour (22)

Again we ask:  what are the psychological effects for mother and baby of labouring and birthing without peak levels of these hormones of pleasure and mutual dependency?  Some researchers believe that endorphins are the reward we get for performing reproductive functions such as mating and birthing:  i.e., the ‘endorphin fix’ keeps us having sex and having babies.(23)  It is interesting that most countries who practice western obstetrics, which promotes drugs and interventions in birth, above pleasure and empowerment, have experienced declining birthrates in recent years.

Of greater concern is a study that looked at the birth records of 200 opiate addicts born in Stockholm from 1945 to 1966 and compared them with the birth records of their non-addicted siblings.  When the mothers had received opiates, barbiturates and/or nitrous oxide during labour, especially in multiple doses, the offspring were more likely to become drug addicted. (24)

This study was recently replicated with a US population, with very similar results.(25) The authors of the first study suggest an imprinting mechanism, but could it also relate to the matter of ecstasy – if we don’t get it at birth, as we expect, we maybe look for it later in life through drugs.