BABY love

Oxy­tocin works won­ders dur­ing and af­ter preg­nancy – they don’t call it the love hor­mone for noth­ing, writes Ker­ryn Massyn

Your Pregnancy - - Pregnancy Files -

SOME­TIMES EVEN A GOOD OLD CRY HELPS BY GET­TING RID OF ALL THAT STRESS AND LET­TING THE FEEL-GOOD HOR­MONE RE­PLACE IT

RE­LEASED INTO THE blood­stream when we’re happy and re­laxed, oxy­tocin is an im­por­tant chem­i­cal mes­sen­ger in hu­man be­hav­iours such as sex­ual arousal, anx­i­ety, child­birth and moth­erbaby bond­ing. So says Henny de Beer, a clin­i­cal mid­wife spe­cial­ist at Ori­gin Fam­ily-Cen­tred Ma­ter­nity Hos­pi­tal and se­nior part­ner in the Grove De Beer Mid­wife Prac­tice. “Oxy­tocin causes a chem­i­cal re­ac­tion in the body that makes a per­son feel good. It of­fers a truly rose­c­oloured per­spec­tive – one that helps with see­ing the best in a sit­u­a­tion,” she adds.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOUR BUMP – AND YOUR BABY? 1 DUR­ING PREG­NANCY

“Oxy­tocin is re­leased by a small gland in­side the brain called the pi­tu­itary gland,” ex­plains Henny. “This hap­pens in response to a sen­sory stim­u­la­tion. Its pro­duc­tion will in­crease with phys­i­cal ef­forts like ex­er­cise and mas­sage, as well as so­cial ef­forts like en­gag­ing with peo­ple.” The pro­duc­tion of oxy­tocin then shoots up dur­ing labour.

2DURING LABOUR

Oxy­tocin plays a ma­jor role in help­ing your baby as she makes her en­trance into the world. “Once labour has started, which is be­lieved to be trig­gered by the in­ter­ac­tion of chem­i­cals be­tween the baby and pla­centa, oxy­tocin is ab­so­lutely vi­tal. It is re­spon­si­ble for caus­ing the uterus to con­tract. With­out con­trac­tions labour will not progress,” says Henny. Be­cause oxy­tocin works on a stim­u­la­tion-re­lease mech­a­nism, the re­lease of this won­der hor­mone when con­trac­tions start stim­u­lates more con­trac­tions and more oxy­tocin to be re­leased. In this way, con­trac­tions in­crease in in­ten­sity and fre­quency. It is these pow­er­ful con­trac­tions that help to thin and open the cervix, move the baby down and out of the birth canal, push out the pla­centa, and limit bleed­ing at the site of the pla­centa. This won­der hor­mone has one more trick up its birthing sleeve – us­ing its feel-good magic, it helps you feel stress­free and re­laxed af­ter birth. Ex­actly what an ex­hausted new mama needs.

3WHEN BREAST­FEED­ING

It’s known as the cud­dle hor­mone with good rea­son. “Oxy­tocin causes con­trac­tions of the muscles of the milk ducts in a mother’s breast. It then also helps the milk to flow from the ducts to the nip­ple. With­out oxy­tocin, the milk would still be pro­duced (as it’s the hor­mone pro­lactin that helps to make breast­milk) but it would stag­nate in the breast be­cause it won’t flow,” says Henny. That’s sim­ply ask­ing for trou­ble. “The oxy­tocin re­leased dur­ing breast­feed­ing also causes the uterus to con­tract while you’re nurs­ing, and so your uterus shrinks back to its prepreg­nancy size quicker.”

4FOR BOND­ING

The skin-to-skin con­tact you’re en­cour­aged to have with baby just af­ter birth is an­other way to stim­u­late the re­lease of oxy­tocin. This is im­por­tant, as a post-birth oxy­tocin flood helps you feel con­nected to and in love with your baby. Cud­dling with your baby also stim­u­lates a re­lease of oxy­tocin in her, mak­ing her feel safe and loved. “The mother’s oxy­tocin is shared with the baby – phys­i­cally through the breast­milk and psy­cho­log­i­cally through a lov­ing, re­laxed mother. This re­sults in a calm baby,” she adds. Oxy­tocin will also keep you more fo­cused on your baby than any else, which is es­pe­cially im­por­tant dur­ing those first weeks and months, where you’re build­ing a spe­cial bond with your lit­tle one. It’s rel­a­tively easy to get your daily cud­dle chem­i­cal boost – it’s all about dis­cov­er­ing your zen. Try to laugh at some­thing, lis­ten to some up­lift­ing music, learn how to take deep, cleans­ing breath. Some­times even a good old cry helps by get­ting rid of all that stress and let­ting the feel-good hor­mone re­place it. And, says, Henny, it’s im­por­tant that you feel cher­ished. “This is im­por­tant not just dur­ing the birthing and breast­feed­ing process – ev­ery­one in­volved with the mom and baby need to nur­ture and pro­tect them no mat­ter what.” YP

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