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Photo courtesy of Hannahbphotographyuk.com

We have around 100 hormones in our bodies and the main hormone that is responsible for labour is oxytocin. We have synthetic versions of it in hospital and we rely on those drugs to induce you or speed up your labour. You’ve probably heard of oxytocin before, but you may not have been told about the ways you can really promote releasing it and maintaining a natural flow.

Here’s what you really need to know.

Choose your Tribe

Your “tribe” aka birth partners are key to having a good birth experience and keeping oxytocin levels flowing. Imagine you’re running a marathon and no one is really supporting you, cheering you on, motivating you or handing you drinks as you run past. How far would you get? Now imagine you’re running a marathon and you’ve got people you love and trust consistently cheering you on, keeping you focused, well hydrated and attending to your needs as you go. Now how far would you get? Your tribe should get you further, if not, to the finish line. They should all understand, support, guide and care for you. If you’re having a baby in hospital you can only have 2 people but if you’re having a homebirth you can have whoever you want (including the dog)

Don’t be afraid to say no to people. I know it can be awkward when a good mate, sister or your mother in law just want to be there but this is about you and your baby. I’ve seen labours significantly slow down after the company has changed.

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker

In 2012, Ellen Hodnett et al. published a review of studies that covered 15,000 participants. They found that women who were supported by a single caregiver during the birth process were less likely to require C-sections or painkillers. Not only that, but their labour went more quickly and their babies were born in better health.

Plus, radiologist Elvira Lang studied the medical results of comfort talk by doctors, a technique that includes the use of empathetic language and hypnosis while patients undergo laparoscopic surgery. In a study conducted with 241 patients, Lang found that those who received conventional treatment reported maximum pain levels of 7.5 on a scale from 0 to 10, while those who had comfort talk reported maximum levels of 2.5. It’s clear that kind support, love and care goes a long way.

I have also asked several women about their birth experience, both when things went according to plan and also when they didn’t. Those that had obvious good support usually start with focusing on the help and support they had saying things like “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Doulas

So what is a doula and why should you consider one?

A Doula is someone who’s trained in supporting women before, during and after birth. They are not medically trained and are only there to help and support you. Their care starts in pregnancy and they will get to know you throughout your journey to ensure they only drive your agenda. Research shows that Doulas mean less intervention, less complications and reduced risk of having an underweight baby, shorter labours and more positive memories of birth. Having a baby is the biggest thing you’ll ever do in life and having a trained, trusted person there just for you at that time makes a difference. The experiences I have had working with doulas have been great and I’d highly recommend looking into getting one, especially if this is your first baby.