The role of your hormones during labour
There are four main hormones that will play a role in your labour:
- Prolactin - produces breastmilk
- Oxytocin - makes uterus contractions
- Beta-endorphins - natural pain relief
- Adrenaline and noradrenaline - fight or flight response
Oxytocin - Contractions
Oxytocin is known as the hormone of love. You release oxytocin during sexual activity, orgasm, labour and breastfeeding, as well as when doing something that makes you feel good such as laughing, touching and hugging. This hormone creates contractions in labour. It can also help you feel positive, relaxed and loving. This hormone peaks when you and your baby first make physical contact.
Beta-endorphins - Natural Pain Relief
These are a naturally occurring opiates to help you with pain relief. Levels are high during sexual activity, pregnancy, labour and breastfeeding. In labor it will help you to reach an altered state to help you achieve a natural birth.
Adrenaline and Noradrenaline - Fight or Flight
Adrenaline and Noradrenaline are your body's fight or flight hormones. They are released in your body in response to fear. During labour your adrenaline levels will gradually rise. If you are feeling scared or experiencing pain you will release high levels of adrenaline, which can then reduce the beneficial flow of oxytocin in your nervous system causing your labour to slow down or stop. High levels of adrenaline in labour can also cause your blood flow to be diverted away from your uterus and your baby and redirected to your arms and legs for the fight or flight response.
In the second stage of labor, adrenaline helps create the foetal ejection reflex. It can fill you with new found energy and prepare your baby for the rigorous second stage of labor.
Prolactin - Breastmilk production
Prolactin is a hormone that is released when you deliver your placenta. It is also the hormone that helps produce milk in your breasts as well as promoting bonding and nurturing in you, the mother.