A.K.A “The Love Hormone” – also the shy hormone.

  • Released when we make love, cuddle, stroke a pet, laugh, kiss, have a deep, meaningful conversation.
  • It should be present for labour, giving birth, breastfeeding, bonding and attachment.

Oxytocin is powerful BUT very sensitive & is threatened by fear, embarrassment, feeling observed, feeling cold, disturbances and loud noises. It’s so important that a mother is left along during birth with as little disturbance as possible. The first hour after the birth is vital so that the mother & baby have skin to skin.  If the mother isn’t able to then the birth partner should be encouraged to.

During labour and birth, Oxytocin causes:

  • Uterine contractions to open the cervix
  • Expansion of the birth canal alongside relaxation & opening of the p.f.  (pelvic floor)
  • Calming, analgesic effect (mum & baby)
  • As labour progresses more is released, a natural augmentation (speeding up)
  • A further surge during the last part of ‘active’ labour triggers the ‘foetal ejection reflex’ (pushing urge)
  • released in pulses
  • Contractions cause compression
  • Pauses between these contractions
  • The baby can lower their heart rate to cope with the reduced oxygen during a contraction, and, in the pauses, when there is no compression, the baby’s heart rate can recover. This process helps to squeeze all the fluid from the baby’s lungs, preparing them for when they are no longer connected to the umbilical cord.
  • The pressure of the baby on the cervix
  • Distension of the vagina 
  • The fanning out of the pelvic floor muscles and the perineum 
  • Stretching of the perineum as the baby’s head is crowning (being born) 
  • Clitoral stimulation 
  • Nipple stimulation 
  • Skin to skin contact with the baby

Following birth

  • Reduces stress outside the womb for mother and baby.
  • Supports the start of breast feeding.
  • Connects & primes those feelings of pleasure with the act of contact, holding, feeding and caring for the baby which encourages mutual bonding.
  • Warms the front of the mother’s body through a process called vasodilation perfect place for the new-born, a new baby is not able to regulate their own body temperature.
  • The Oxytocin receptors on the baby’s front absorb the hormone & help the baby feel less stressed as they nuzzle & look for milk, producing even more Oxytocin which encourages stronger, more effective contractions for the safe release of the placenta, thus reducing risk of a post-partum haemorrhage (excessive blood loss after birth)