15 May Cheers to a Mocktail
For the purpose of this blog, we will refer to the Cocktail of Hormones produced during pregnancy and birth as a Mocktail. Firstly, I don’t want to give you mixed messages thinking I’m suggesting you get the Cosmo’s in and secondly you can’t have too many of our chosen ingredients in a Mocktail! We are going to focus only on how to get the perfect Mocktail mix, so the right hormones flow at the right time, promoting an easier and more natural birth.
Our body is a great machine and we should work with it trusting that it has protected the Human Race for thousands of years. We shouldn’t really have to consider what we should and shouldn’t do during birth as this is a natural process and life event. However, over past years we have moved away from believing in instinct and doing what comes natural. The Government, Hospitals and Healthcare Professionals now strongly support women going back to basics and are promoting normal birth as the gold standard for uncomplicated pregnancies.
We each have our own definition of what ‘normal’ is and this can sometimes cause confusion. So, let’s think of our desired birth as natural and gentle, rather than normal. Just as you have taken your Folic Acid in preparation for a healthier baby, you also need to take the same level of responsibility in preparing for birth. The role of Midwives and Doctors is to keep you and your baby safe, let them do their job but you do yours by remembering most women have a body specially designed for birth and a lot of how birth goes is under your control and down to you. Some of you will have complicated medical and surgical histories, which may need a more medicalised approach – but in part, you can still do so much to influence achieving a satisfying birth experience. No matter how you give birth, practising Hypnobirthing techniques will keep your perfect Mocktail flowing benefiting all mothers and babies with no side effects!
Hospitals are bustling busy places, so not naturally conducive to facilitating undisturbed birth, which is the optimal way to birth. However, with knowledge and a plan you can minimise disturbance and create a lovely, calm environment for both you and your baby. You are a major part in the birth team so need to communicate to staff how they can help you prepare, plan and make your nest.
The Perfect Mocktail Mix
Oxytocin – Probably the hormone most people have heard of as it is famously produced during all things Love – falling in love, sex and childbirth. Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust and strengthens relationships. It also has an important ejection reflex function, including sperm (yes, men produce it too!) and in mothers for ejecting the baby, the placenta and breast milk. During pregnancy, it helps with the absorption of nutrients to help baby grow and has a sedative and calming effect on a mother, relieving stress. Oxytocin is often referred to as the petrol in the engine, stimulating uterine contractions signalling the start of labour and being responsible for the progress of labour through maintaining regular and efficient contractions. The baby also produces Oxytocin at increased levels during labour, which is heightened during skin to skin and breastfeeding as mum and baby drown in each other’s eyes, sealing an everlasting bond. Early breastfeeding stimulates more Oxytocin resulting in an easier and quicker physiological/natural 3rd stage and birth of the placenta, along with a reduced likelihood of Post- Partum Haemorrhage. The baby also reaps the benefit from these pleasure hormones, securing his/her chances of survival – So we’ll add a lot of Oxytocin to our Mocktail please!
Endorphins – Also produced during sex, pregnancy, birth and breast feeding but also in response to stress and pain. They provide a natural pain killer, having properties similar to Pethidine and diminish our perception of pain. Beta Endorphins are responsible for the altered state of consciousness women experience during labour, when they appear to retract within themselves and get ‘in the zone’ as a natural coping strategy. Endorphins work with Prolactin to prepare for breastfeeding and are thought important for maturing baby in readiness for birth. Endorphins in breast milk stimulate a loving dependency between mum and baby – So we’ll add Endorphins to our Mocktail too.
Catecholamines (Adrenaline & Noradrenaline) – When birth is imminent Catecholamines are useful and positive. A sudden increase at this time activates the fetal ejection reflex causing strong contractions and a rush in a mum’s energy, helping an easier and quicker birth. They also play a part in stimulating the mothering instinct and provide some protection for the baby during birth. An increase of Catecholamines at birth causes the baby to be wide eyed and alert in readiness to meet his/her mum – We’ll have a measured amount of this at just the right time.
Prolactin – The main breastfeeding hormone and known as the nurturing and mothering hormone – Lots of this in our Mocktail please.
I’m sure you can imagine how complex a system this is and why it’s so important we work with our bodies, especially during pregnancy and birth. We have this wonderful system already in place and this deserves some respect. For a positive and satisfying birth experience – trust your instinct – let go and let your hormones flow. Being aware of what’s in our Mocktail will help…here’s how to make it:
Creating a Mocktail during pregnancy
Kiss, cuddle, 20-second hugs (minimum 8 per day), hold hands, light massage, make eye contact, make love
Smile, share a meal, watch a romantic comedy, funny emails, laugh, chat with someone you love
Eat quality dark chocolate, bananas, tiny amounts of chilli peppers, season food with pepper
Visualise positive images, focus on cute pictures – a Dad snuggling a baby works very well
Play music, dance, smooch, send loving texts (you’ll get one back)
Tell friends & family to surprise you with a little gift now and again
Stroke your pet and look into their eyes
Keep warm and snuggly, but expose yourself to some sun for 20 minutes
Eat eggs, bananas, pepper
Use products that smell of vanilla or lavender, 3-4 long slow breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth
Imagine, look and listen to anything else that makes you feel warm and squishy
Creating a Mocktail during labour
Make your nest and take it with you, choose things from home that are comforting & familiar
Focus on positive words and visualisations
Slow breaths in through your nose, focusing on a longer breath out through your mouth
Relaxation – music, bathing/shower, 5 flower remedy, rocking, baking, colouring
Quiet, subdued lighting, privacy, hot cloth/cold cloth on your forehead, neck or back
Support from those who make you feel safe and loved, minimal interruption, lowered voices
Upright and forward leaning positions, birth ball, kneeling, squatting, changing position often
Gentle strolling, hand in hand
Eat bananas, good quality dark chocolate, tiny amounts of chilli pepper
Creating a Mocktail for immediately after birthing your baby
Skin to skin
Focus on your baby (you won’t be able to resist anyway!)
Same quiet and calm environment for birthing your placenta
Cover up with a pre-warmed dressing gown/blanket immediately after birth (to slow Adrenaline)
After the first breastfeed hand baby over to bond with your life partner
Print this out – put copies up around your home – on your fridge, your bedroom door and anywhere you and your partner pass regularly. Pin it up at work – let everyone join in – everyone will benefit!!
When you’ve exhausted this list, you will surely have had an amazing birth experience.