Oxytocin vs Adrenaline in Labor


Oxytocin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland that causes increased contraction of the uterus during labor and stimulates the ejection of milk into the ducts of the breasts. It also is responsible for relationships and bonding. Adrenaline is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, especially in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and preparing muscles for exertion.

If oxytocin is the "hormone of love" and adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone it only makes sense that when a woman is in labor she needs to feel loved, cared for and safe. Feeling stressed and scared is exactly what she doesn't need. That is one of the major reasons labor slows down or can completely stop for a woman. That is when then care providers want to start using synthetic forms of oxytocin like Pitocin.

Why do they want to augment labor with Pitocin? Well, there are a variety of reasons that I can't begin to speculate on however mostly it's because once labor starts they want to keep it going to make sure mama and baby are safe. Plus, depending on if the water has broken or not that leads to them putting labor on a clock . That's why I always suggest laboring at home as long as possible before going in if you're having a hospital or birth center birth. However if your water breaks while at home please call your care provider. The reason I suggest laboring at home is because this is where you feel most comfortable! If you feel more comfortable in a hospital setting then by all means go in  and if your water has broken and your provider wants you to go to the hospital that is your call to make. There is no right or wrong answer only preferences. Do what is most comfortable for YOU!

I won't go into a lot of detail in this post on Pitocin, I'll save that for another time but the only downside to this is depending on the original birth plan this can cause a woman to become more scared and stressed which well, you know what can happen next. Slow labor progression means they want to up the Pitocin. How can we avoid that? Hire me as your doula! Seriously though, that is what a doula does. She will keep you calm, focused, and relaxed. Our job is to support you in feeling safe, loved and relaxed. If you have concerns we will help educate you so feel empowered to speak up for yourself. If you need a little encouragement to speak up there is always time to take 10 minutes to discuss your options. Movement and the comfort techniques really are the best treatment for a stalled labor. There are many things a doula can do to help ease you back into a more relaxed state. There are positions to get in and different movements to do to help encourage your body to open and expand. The calmer you are the more open your body becomes.

Utilizing touch, breathing and massage we can help your body to relax in between contractions. We can use positive affirmations and mantras to help keep you connected to the birth you desire. All of this will help coax the oxytocin to flow more freely which is what we want. We want the love hormone flowing!!

Remember, adrenaline is not what we want in labor. To practice the next time you're feeling stressed or anxious take a few deep breathes. Have your partner give you a foot massage. Take a bath and close your eyes and breathe. Remember what this feels like to breathe in the calm. Come up with positive affirmations and mantras to take into labor with you. Write them down, or print them out. Make your birth room as comfortable as you can. The more comfortable you are the more easily the oxytocin will flow and will keep the adrenaline at bay. And of course, pick up the phone or send an email to hire a doula! If you're in the San Diego area I would love to support you!