Labor Hormones You Should Know Before Giving Birth
Birth is a dance. Along the way a cocktail of hormones will cascade into your bloodstream and produce an effect that is masterfully designed to make you and your baby fall deeply in love. Our culture views birth as a painful, and disempowering experience. For generations women have taken a back seat when it comes to childbirth, allowing modern obstetrics to push a technocratic birth model that has little respect for the power of the female body, and now it’s time to reclaim our bodies as sacred sites and to trust that we who know exactly how to give birth. I know birth to be a potent experience that reshaped my life, that gave me a power center that I still stand from today. The cocktail of hormones formulated is designed to carry you through to the other side, making you feel so good that you’d do it again and again.
The Hormones of Labor
Most people don’t realize how complex the birth process is and yet how innately equipped we are to undergo it. There are some important hormones you should know about as you prepare for labor.
Oxytocin—What’s Not to Love?
In addition to being a bonding hormone, oxytocin is the hormone that starts your uterine contractions? At the onset of labor, your body produces copious amounts of this hormone. Mothers who are induced into labor are given Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin. Unfortunately, Pitocin interferes with the release of oxytocin from the brain. In that way it disrupts the primal rhythmic pattern of contractions—a gradual movement of waves through the body—and replaces it with an aggressive climb toward more intense contractions. The intensity can cause both mom and baby unnecessary distress.
Not only does oxytocin start uterine contractions, but it also helps to stop postpartum hemorrhage. What’s more, oxytocin continues to be secreted when your baby suckles at the breast, and since there is a hardwired connection between the breasts and the uterus, the suckling stimulates the uterus to contract back to its normal size. And again, it helps you to bond and communicate through love with this tiny new family member.
PEA: Obsessed with Phenylethylamine
If oxytocin is the love hormone, then PEA is the falling in love hormone. You might be surprised to hear that this birth hormone is also found in elevated amounts in the brains of folks with obsessive compulsive disorder. Why would it be biologically advantageous to equip us with such a hormone? People with OCD are overly attentive to—even obsessed with—a particular set of triggers. Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, knew exactly what she was doing when she put this hormone into the labor mix. She wants us to be obsessed with our babies, to pay attention to every little detail. Unfortunately, we only get to experience this hormone when we go through the primal journey to birth—interventions often get in the way. Medicine can disconnect the mind-body experience, and cause disruption with hormone secretion at peak levels.
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT): The God Chemical
Called “the God chemical,” DMT is a psychedelic substance produced by your pineal gland. DMT is found naturally in various sources, and is related to human neurotransmitters such as serotonin and melatonin. People all around the globe travel to visit shamans for guided ceremony with the indigenous psychedelics Ayahuasca and peyote, both of which contain DMT. So much work, just to get the blissful experience that your female body naturally creates at birth! This “God chemical” naturally peaks at birth, and also gets released during orgasm and when you die. I call this chemical “The Big Bang,” because it shows up at the three major portals of life: birth, procreation, and death. It’s also released in smaller amounts just as you enter REM sleep, as well as during lucid dreaming and meditation. DMT is first produced by the human fetus on the 49th day of development, according to Dr. Rick Strassman, who specializes in psychiatry and has conducted extensive studies on the effects of DMT. Meaning as early as the first trimester, your little one is already experiencing the wonders of God.
Endorphins: Natural Opiates
Finally, the body’s natural opiates are proteins released during labor—locking into receptors that might otherwise feel pain, they act as an analgesic. In its place, you experience intense, arousing sensation. Thresholds of pain and arousal change as you move through your labor. Beta-endorphins have a numbing effect on par with morphine. Research shows that women begin to release endorphins prior to labor.