When this post first went live, I was flying to The Netherlands in order to speak at the Less is More … Oxytocine conference. It seemed like a great time to collate a few of the oxytocin-related resources here on my website, both for participants at the conference and also for anyone else who might find them useful, and we have kept it updated ever since, so here goes…
First and most recently, a review looking at why spontaneous physiological labour and birth is beneficial.
I’ve also written about the benefits of spontaneous labour in In Your Own Time:
I share a fun way of understanding this in this blog post, about cats and labour.
Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing
One of the best resources to help you understand the science around the hormones of birth is Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies, and Maternity Care.
“Overall, consistent and coherent evidence from physiologic understandings and human and animal studies finds that that the innate, hormonal physiology of mothers and babies—when promoted, supported, and protected—has significant benefits for both in childbearing, and likely into the future, by optimizing labor and birth, newborn transitions, breastfeeding, maternal adaptations, and maternal-infant attachment.
There are likely additional benefits from avoiding potential harms of unnecessary interventions, including possible adverse epigenetic programming effects. From the perspective of hormonal physiology, these are not all-or-nothing benefits, but rather accrue along a continuum. Every mother and baby is likely to benefit from additional support for physiologic childbearing, as far as safely possible, including when interventions are used.”
“Given the uncertainty and potential for significant harms to women and babies in relation to maternity care interventions, application of the Precautionary Principle would be wise in maternity care. Such a standard would involve:
- rigorously verifying the benefits of proposed interventions in individual circumstances before undertaking them
- limiting routine practices to those of proven benefit to healthy mothers and babies
- avoiding the use of interventions for the convenience of women or maternity care providers and systems
- initially using less invasive measures to address challenges, and stepping up to more consequential interventions only as needed” (Sarah Buckley)
Buckley, Sarah J (2015). Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies, and Maternity Care. Washington DC: Childbirth Connection Programs, National Partnership for Women & Families.
You can download all sorts of goodies from their website, including the full report, an executive summary and a series of factsheets.
Many women are given exogenous oxytocin during labour and birth. Exogenous simply means that it comes from outside the body, rather than being made within it. It’s the same molecule but the origin is important. That’s because exogenous oxytocin doesn’t have all the positive effects of oxytocin made by the woman’s own body, and it has downsides too.
Two of the key indications for oxytocin are induction of labour and the birth of the placenta – are such big topics that I already have resource pages on them:
I’ve also written books on both of these topics:
More on synthetic oxytocin
And even more importantly, some information and ideas about physiological labour and birth, and for promoting the flow of a woman’s own oxytocin:
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