How to optimize your chances for a normal labor: a mind-body approach

Pregnancy_bellyoxytocin Oxytocin

In my obstetrics  practice, I have many patients that come in wanting to what they can do to optimize there chances for a normal labor and minimize the need for an induction of labor.  I really hope that you are not reading this at 39 weeks of pregnancy, because the truth is, you might be starting a little late, but better late than never.

When it comes to labor, my own midwife, she had a catch phrase that I have since adopted: “Baby comes out the same way it got in”…Yup, that’s right, SEX. And lots of it. Ob/Gyn physicians induce your labor with use of a drug called Pitocin. This is a drug that mimics the hormone your own body produces in labor, which is called “Oxytocin” (shown above). This hormone stimulates your uterus to contract. As the levels of Oxytocin go up, more and more oxytocin hormone receptors are made in your uterus and over time, your uterine muscle cells become more and more sensitive to this hormone and labor builds.

Guess what? This is the same hormone that you feel when you get a hug, have an orgasm, and just feel generally “warm and fuzzy”. Now there are a lot of other hormones and pain receptors activated at the same time in labor so labor is by no means meant to feel nice, but generally speaking there are ways to encourage oxytocin as you are approaching your due date.

While sex is one of the ways to increase Oxytocin, nipple stimulation is another, so if you don’t have a partner, no problem. Masturbation will release the same hormones as well. Now, I think I may know what you are thinking, “I don’t feel sexy…”, but who does when they are 9 months pregnant. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. Once you get started it won’t matter and you will end up enjoying yourself.

There is one more element to enticing a natural labor to come on and that is that if you are extremely stressed or anxious, your body is pumping out the anti-labor hormone, and that is Cortisol, or stress hormone. Babies don’t like to come out when this hormone is high. They think you are at war, or about to be eating by a tiger, which would not be a good time to be born. Therefore, stress reduction is very important near term. If you are extremely stressed and busy at work, you might want to start slowing it down. And don’t just use the time to put together baby furniture. Take some time for yourself and for relaxation. Some folks may need professional help to do this and that is fine too. In general, most can get some exercise (exercise burns cortisol), lots of rest (also reduces cortisol), and maybe get a massage from a prenatal provider (releases oxytocin). Basically, just do whatever makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Make the baby think it is coming out to a world of roses and sunshine.

© Regina Zopf MD 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Regina Zopf MD with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Accessing this site means you agree to the disclaimer that can be read here.

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