My Top 5 ways to stimulate Oxytocin in childbirth (how to get the Love Hormone pumping)

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought what better time that to talk about my favourite hormone - Oxytocin!

You might be thinking what is Oxytocin and what’s so darn special about it.

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and has long been known to activate receptors in the uterus and mammary glands, facilitating labour and milk letdown.

Found in both men and women and it is vital to bonding.  That post-orgasmic feeling that leaves you with a massive grin? That’s Oxytocin. 

Just after your baby’s birth will be the time when you feel the greatest outpouring of Oxytocin and there’s a good reason for this: bonding. Your body has been designed so that immediate and uninterrupted skin to skin contact and the first feed encourages you as a mum to protect and hold this small being. 

From an evolutionary perspective you could say that the human species may not have developed community without it.

If you look at the process of birth, Oxytocin stimulates your Uterus to contract (or surge) encouraging baby to travel down through the cervix and birth canal. Once baby has arrived, that first post-birth feed and skin to skin stimulates further contractions to birth the placenta (also called the third stage of labour). 

So how do you get this lovely Oxytocin flowing?

It’s important to recognise that the hormone Adrenaline works in opposition to Oxytocin so you want to avoid anything that may cause you anxiety or fear and put everything in place that is designed to make you feel relaxed. 

Oxytocin likes to feel safe and unobserved. If you haven’t considered using a birthing pool for a waterbirth then this can be a way of enhancing your feelings of security (being in your own little bubble), comfort (taking the weight off your joints) and your midwife will often stand behind you or leave you alone so you don’t feel like there are lots of people watching you. 

The following suggestions are based on the idea of using all of your senses to get that loved-up feeling however you birth:

  1. Have lots of eye contact with your partner. Research has for a long time shown that prolonged eye contact stimulates oxytocin release. In fact, 80% of your brain that is dedicated to processing sensory information is for visual input so keep your eyes on your partner, birth affirmation cards or photos of other loved ones.

  2. Ask your partner for plenty of cuddles, massage or soft stroke touches. These are perfect for relaxing you and, providing you have practised before birth, can be the ultimate triggers or anchors for relaxation.  Nipple stimulation stimulates oxytocin release so why not suggest it to your birth partner as a way to feel connected and loved up. 

  3. Essential oils like lavender or any of your favourite smells will help you get in the zone - you could even use an old tee with your partners’ bodily smells and aftershave on! Just as long as it’s not too stinky!

  4. Play your favourite music that brings back positive emotional memories - a wedding playlist would be perfect or you can join my mailing list for a FREE hypnobirthing relaxation audio here

  5. Kissing your partner for a period of time lowers the stress hormone cortisol and increases oxytocin - it’s also pretty fun to do!

Make sure you include your preferences in your birth plan - a great visual birth plan is this one from the Positive Birth Book and you can download the PDF for FREE 

I really hope that these tips help you to have a positive birth experience. To celebrate Valentine’s Day I have a discount code across the site LOVE14 14% off EVERYTHING including bags for until Friday.

When you book a Hey Mama private antenatal course, I focus on releasing any fear and anxiety you might hold around birth and how you can promote your mental wellbeing through pregnancy, birth and into the fourth trimester.  Hypnobirthing is great at encouraging a deeper level of relaxation in the subconscious by combining specific breathing techniques, scripted audios and visualisations to guide the body through labour. 

You’ve got this Mama!

Rachel Clarke