Materials needed: oxytocin, things that create oxytocin, people that create oxytocin.
Oxytocin is the primary ingredient in birth. Not only does it cause contractions, but it is also the hormone that causes the ‘feel good’ sensation when people we love touch us, and thus is often referred to as the ‘love hormone’. Because of this, creating an oxytocin rich environment can help you have a more positive birth experience. When other mammals give birth, they instinctively create a space that builds oxytocin. Typically, dark, quiet, comfortable, and supported by love and knowledge, these mammals’ ‘labor cave’ are safe, nurturing spaces where there babies are born. You can do the same for your own birth, whether at home or in a hospital.
Think of your five senses and how they relate to oxytocin. This is a great method for building your labor environment.
Sight. Keep your cave dark…like a cave, duh! Did you know melatonin synergizes with oxytocin, making it more effective? Keeping the lights low, helps your body stay relaxed and producing oxytocin, while bright lights can create adrenaline, oxytocin’s arch nemesis. Fill your space with things you love, such as art, photos, or nature. It’s a very personal decision. Just think about what makes you happy and peaceful.
Smell. Do you have a favorite smell? Vanilla? Chocolate chip cookies? Lavender? Clean laundry? Smells can be very powerful oxytocin builders, so have samples of your favorite smells on hand in your ‘labor cave’. One doula trick is to not put these smells on your body, since your needs can change quickly in labor. instead, put the smell on a handkerchief or washcloth. Then, if the smell is no longer creating oxytocin, you can put it away and move on to the next thing.
Touch. Your partner’s and love one’s touch can be a magic oxytocin maker. A light caress on the arm or a strong hip squeeze can be just the thing. Perhaps sensations such as having water poured rhythmically over your back creates a calming sensation for you. Learning to communicate what feels great and what doesn’t can be key. Take a BirthME childbirth education class to learn these techniques and how to customize them to your needs.
Sound. Do you love the sound of the ocean? Do you hear “Of Monsters and Men” and feel instantly calm and relaxed? Start thinking about what sounds calm you. Music can be an especially powerful means of building oxytocin. Start working your Pandora stations now. Maybe create one calming play list, and one for increasing the energy in your space, think peppy and dancing! Spring for the one day of commercial free listening when you go into labor. Commercials equal distraction which can reduce oxytocin.
Taste. Do you love herbal tea, iced with honey? Having options for beverages and snacks can keep you hydrated and keep your energy up. Having comforting choices, can keep the oxytocin flowing while you work. Stock your fridge and freezer, as well as you hospital bag, with all your favorites.
Hire an oxytocin creator. All of the above specifics can be a lot to think about when you are in labor. What is the best way to ensure your needs are met? Hire a professional oxytocin builder! Yes, you can bring in a team member who can help you with all of the above: a doula! A BirthME doula can help you build your ‘labor cave ‘and keep that Oxytocin flowing. She can keep the lights low and remind staff and family to keep their voices quiet. Your doula can help your partner recall just the right touch you are craving. She can bring you that fresh laundry smell when you need a boost, or put your favorite music on when you need to rock and sway. She will pour your tea over ice when you are hot and bring the warm blankets when there is a chill. Hiring a doula is like hiring a general contractor to build your labor cave. You design the space, and she will make it happen.
Watch for part two of the Labor Cave project entitled, “Does your Mother-in-law create oxytocin?”