What is Oxytocin? Oxytocin, also called the “cuddle” hormone, is released during close touching, such as cuddling and skin-to-skin contact.
Pregnancy and Oxytocin: Your body releases oxytocin when the baby is ready. It is said that your body during pregnancy has high oxytocin levels to help you and your baby bond.
Labor and Oxytocin: Labor begins with a surge of Oxytocin, which will ripen the cervix, it will continue to grow and progress labor, relieve anxiety, and reduce pain. Pain during labor can be daunting – having a loving partner, coach, or doula on hand can help you relax and tap further into this body's natural resources. (I want to put a chart here, but still finding a proper one). With an increased surge of oxytocin, the cervix will ripen, and contractions will start. Sometimes, if your body struggles to make enough oxytocin, hospital doctors may give you Pitocin – a synthetic version of Oxytocin. Like all medications, you may need to research the risk and side effects of taking this medication. Ask your provider or doula about Pitocin if you have any questions; each can offer a varied perspective.
Labor/Delivery Interventions and Oxytocin: It is shown that pain relief in labor will slow down contractions and slow down labor, and in effect, slow down the release of oxytocin. The biggest culprit of reduced oxytocin is caesarian delivery; according to Oxytocin The Biological Guide of Being a Mother, caesarian births may result in reduced ability to produce oxytocin, reduced milk production, reduced rate of prolactin, increased anxiety in new mothers and reduced oxytocin in newborn babies. It is hypothesized that the lack of immediate skin-to-skin after birth contributes to this, and pain relief is given during labor.
Prolactin + Oxytocin = Lactation: Prolactin is the hormone that produces the milk in your
milk ducts. Oxytocin is the hormone connected to your milk ducts and activates milk release! When your baby latches, your body becomes filled with oxytocin, and an emotional bond is made. When this emotional bond is made, your milk ducts activate, and let-down begins. Because of this bond, the mere thought of your baby can cause your milk to let down, whether at home, the grocery store, or a fancy dinner.
While bottle feeding does not release the exact amounts of hormones and oxytocin as breastfeeding, parents who bottle-feed babies can still get that oxytocin boost. This boost can be accomplished with skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, and other interactions during food time.
Baby and Oxytocin: Baby is finally born; that means oxytocin is done, right? Not quite, not even close, oxytocin is just beginning to help you bond with your baby.
Guess what? Oxytocin also helps your partner bond with the baby too. Research has shown that the higher your oxytocin level at birth, the better you are to bond with your baby and the less likely you will have postpartum depression. The more you interact with your baby and your partner interacts with your baby, the higher your oxytocin and bonding will be for all of you.
This is available as a printout on our website