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Ep 5// Physiological Birth- Hormones of Labor

Updated: Mar 6, 2020


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Physiological Birth- “relating to the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions”.





Wide range of normal, not going over stages of labor.


Mammalian birth- we are mammals! We like private, safe, familiar.


Hormones: Dr. Sarah Buckly. A great book to read by her is Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering.


Oxytocin- Love hormone. Made in hypothalamus and a pulse is released every 3-5 min during early labor, increasing until baby comes. Vagina stretches, sends signals to pituitary glad which releases more oxytocin. Solidifies mother baby bond. First hour importance! Milk.- How to increase… Released during sex/breastfeeding.


Beta-Endorphins- Body’s way of reducing pain.. similar to morphine- same receptors. Released during sex, birth, breastfeeding triggers our brain as a sort of reward when doing these activities. Why?? Also released during certain social exchanges encouraging social behavior. Opioids work by reducing stress and increasing pleasure, ecstasy and dependance. Beta- endorphins are the same. Birth High. Transcend pain, altered state of consciousness. Stay in blood stream 1 hr, Takes about 21 hours for it to be completely out of moms body. In breast milk. May help baby transition earth side. Higher in moms who had a natural birth than c-section.


Catacholomines- Fight or flight (Adrenaline/noradrenaline). Scared, stressed, cold, hungry (survival). Can stop contractions. Mammals have this ability to stop contractions until they move to a safer place. Noradrinalines role is to divert blood to most important area (legs for running to safety) What this looks like in humans is a long birth, baby’s heart rates drops (low oxygen induced by fear). Also responsible for FER. Catacholomines are beneficial for baby: Reduce risk of low blood sugar, stimulate surfactant release which helps the lungs inflate, enhance responsponsiviness and ton and heart rate and regulating temperature. Drop rapidly after undisturbed birth.


Prolactin- Amazing hormone that aids in milk production. When cervix is dilated hormone is lowest, moments after birth there is a huge increase. Increase can help maternal behaviors (snuggling, protecting, gazing) help with first latch. Also called the “paternity hormone” because there have been a few studies that showed a parallel increase of prolactin in the fathers to be! Fathers with more prolactin levels are more responsive to baby’s cries.

I thought it would be fun to give you 4 things that are common misconceptions when it comes to birth.


These things are happening regularly but don’t help the physiological birth process:


  • You water doesn’t need to break in order for your baby to be born. Believe it or not the amniotic sac has a purpose. It can buffer the intensity of contracts and help more pressure to be put on your cervix dilating it faster. Breaking your water actually comes with risks including increase in infection risk, prolapsed cord and many times you’re put on a clock that says if you don’t deliver with in 24-48 hours a c-section becomes necessary.

  • Cervical checks are unnecessary, especially during pregnancy. Your cervix is not a crystal ball. Many times women go to their 37/38 week appointment and the thought is a cervical check is needed. The only thing your cervix tells you is where you’re at that moment. It will not tell you when you will go into labor or how fast your labor will be. I have had clients who are 1cm dilated 12 hours before birth and clients who walk around at 4cm for 2 weeks before their baby is born. You can skip out on this test.

  • You do not have to push on your back. IN FACT pushing on your back increases the risk of tearing. By being in an upright pushing position like squatting on hands and knees it opens up your pelvis up to 30% more and helps baby descend much easier. You have choices in what position you birth. Intuitive pushing, pushing the way your body tells you to is the most effective

  • On the topic of pushing, one last belief is that you need someone telling you when to push in order to know how and when. During a natural labor this is very unhelpful. Picture yourself in the bathroom trying to poop. A nurse shows up and tells you to, “push push push.” that poo out. What happens? Well.. you freeze! It is the same concept when it comes to pushing. Your body goes through a process called Fetal Ejection Reflex. Your body will automatically starts pushing when it is ready. No need to get purple in the face, your uterus will do the work. Doesn’t mean it’s hard but the concept of someone coaching you through pushing is not physiologically normal.

Take aways:


  • We were designed in a meticulous way. These hormones work so well most of the time. They are a lot less likely to work when mothers are under stress. Transferring during early active labor. Leave body alone.

  • If you don’t feel safe, fix your environment and team. Even if there is a perception of danger it can interrupt this process. Negative talk/stories/threatening of induction

  • Trust your body until it gives you a reason not to. Most of the time your body works.




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