Oxytocin is often called the ‘love hormone’ due to the fact that it is produced when we form social bonds, hug, laugh, share a meal and also when we kiss and make love. But oxytocin is not all just warmth and fuzziness – Oxytocin is also the driving force behind your labour! It stimulates contractions and the dilation of the cervix. And not only that, the more oxytocin you produce the quicker and more comfortable your labour can be. So we need oxytocin during labour and birth – and lots of it!
So, what can you do to increase your natural production of oxytocin?
Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus in the brain. Our five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste send information on our environment to our brain which it then responds to. Therefore, we can influence our production of oxytocin by changing our environment. This is most effective when we involve all 5 of the senses.
What does oxytocin like?
Birth is one of the most primal and instinctive things you can do so for a comfortable and efficient birth to occur we need to tune into the primal part of the brain and tune out of our neocortex – our rational, thinking mind. The neocortex is stimulated by things such as bright lights, conversation and loud upbeat music. Oxytocin is also known as the shy hormone because our bodies will produce more of it when we feel private, safe, unwatched and relaxed. They say that the energy that gets the baby in gets the baby out, so creating an atmosphere where you would feel comfortable being intimate with your partner is one way to think about how to create your ‘oxytocin nest’.
o Lighting, - dim lighting such as candlelight – An eye mask or dark sunglasses can help if you have to be somewhere light
o Photos or pictures which have happy memories
o Feeling private and unwatched - doors closed, curtains shut
o Avoiding stimulating TV and scrolling through social media
o Create a playlist of your favourite relaxing songs
o Listen to hypnobirthing relaxation scripts
o Avoiding fast tempo, loud music
o Avoid conversation
o Familiar bedding, pillows, blankets
o Using water such as a bath, shower or birthing pool can help you to relax and feel more private
o Hot water bottle on your back can be soothing
o Contact with your birth partner, hug, kiss, massage
o Aromatherapy diffuser
o Your perfume/Your partner’s aftershave
o Your own clothes
o Your favourite foods
From Home to Hospital
Your Oxytocin nest can be quite easy to create at home, but if you are moving from home to hospital or a birthing centre, think about what you can pack in your birth bag to take your nest with you!
The combination of all of these things will leave you and your birth partner feeling calm, confident and relaxed and producing lots of the wonder hormone oxytocin which will have a massive impact on your whole birth experience and the post partum period too!