This is the major hormone associated with breastfeeding and is known as the mothering hormone. Traditionally it has been thought to produce aggressively protective behaviour (the “mother tiger” effect) in lactating females.(19) Level of prolactin increase in pregnancy, although milk production is inhibited hormonally until the placenta is delivered. Levels further increase in labour and peak at birth. Prolactin is also a hormone of submission or surrender and produces some degree of anxiety. In the breastfeeding relationship, these effects activate the mother’s vigilance and help her to put her baby’s needs first.(20) The baby also produces prolactin while in the womb, and high levels are found in amniotic fluid, possibly of uterine or placental origin. The function of prolactin in the baby is unknown. Unfortunately in hospitals today, an undisturbed birth is difficult to achieve. There are two factors which disturb birth in all mammals; firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy appear to be fundamental. Yet our entire health system of Western obstetrics is dedicated to observation of pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines. It is amazing that any woman can give birth under these circumstances. Michel Odent observes that having a baby has a lot of parallels with making a baby: same hormones, same parts of the body, same sounds and the same needs for feelings of safety and privacy. How would it be to attempt to make love in the conditions under which we expect women to give birth?
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