Are you wanting to maximize your chances for a natural birth and avoid labor medications? Do you want your body to work as efficiently as possible? Do you want labor to be as safe as possible for both you and your baby? Understanding how your body’s hormones work together can help you make simple yet important choices as you prepare and plan for your birth.

Here is an interesting example about the wisdom of your body. The hormones your body makes in the weeks, days, and even the last few hours leading up to labor, are extremely beneficial for both you and your baby. They set the stage for strong, regular and effective contractions, and even protect you ahead of time from bleeding too much after you give birth. Before your labor even begins, natural hormones are preparing your baby to breathe, digest food and ward off infections post-delivery. Using medication to start your labor (induction) or scheduling a cesarean section before labor has a chance to begin, interfere with the work of these hormones and lessens the naturally-occurring benefits for both you and your baby.

Oxytocin (often called the “love hormone”), is the hormone that causes your contractions, calms your body, reduces your stress and pain and helps connect you with your baby. There is even evidence that oxytocin causes the blood vessels in your chest to expand towards the end of labor, which warms and prepares your chest to receive your baby after birth! Synthetic oxytocin, used to induce or speed up your labor, can cause your body to become less sensitive to the stimulating effects of the naturally-occurring oxytocin. This can interfere with your contraction patterns along with the other benefits of natural oxytocin for you and your baby. Importantly, synthetic oxytocin does not provide the stress and pain reduction benefits that your natural hormone gives you.

Here are some ways to minimize stress on your body and support your body’s natural hormones:

  • Choose a care provider who shares your values and supports your desire for a natural birth
  • Keep your partner and other support people close throughout your pregnancy, including them in at least some of your prenatal visits
  • Choose and attend good childbirth classes that will help you, your partner and support people prepare for your birth
  • Learn and practice methods and techniques that will help you relax deeply in labor
  • During labor, have constant company from your partner and support people
  • Wait until you are in active labor to leave home for the hospital or birth center
  • Keep the lights low and the room quiet where you are laboring
  • Avoid lots of medical equipment in the room and frequent vaginal exams
  • Minimize people coming in and out of the room
  • Avoid tests and treatments, including medications to start or speed up your labor, unless there is a serious problem
  • Keep your energy up with snacks and drinks during labor
  • Make liberal use of warm water during labor, either the shower or a birth pool
  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin on your chest after the birth
  • Keep the baby with you after birth – avoid being separated from your baby
  • Prepare during your pregnancy for your partner and support people to keep you company in the early days and weeks after your baby is born

Let’s be sure to acknowledge right now that there are times when it is important to intervene in birth. Labor inductions, medications to speed up labor, cesarean section and other interventions are all necessary at times and can even be lifesaving. However, the majority of pregnant women are healthy and can expect to give birth to a healthy baby without interfering with the body’s natural process. New evidence is showing how many interventions, which have become all too common, can have unintended consequences and are best used only to address serious problems. Your body knows just what to do for you and your baby – your birth hormones are your best friends!

hormones are your best friends!