A medication-free childbirth can result in the release of more oxytocin and endorphins, making the experience more enjoyable for mom and baby. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
A medication-free childbirth can result in the release of more oxytocin and endorphins, making the experience more enjoyable for mom and baby. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

You may have recently heard about the two new rooms at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital, designed for moms who want a natural birth.

Many of the other Spectrum Health hospitals also have rooms like this. They meet the needs of the many moms who desire a non-medicated birth.

There are of course many reasons moms prefer this type of birth. For me, it was knowing my body could do what it was designed to do—and it did!

Was it tough? Yes. But it was doable. After each birth I felt such a sense of accomplishment that I did it.

If you want a natural birth—a medication-free birth—you should learn more about your hospital’s services and find out if your OB provider is on board. Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial’s epidural rate is 26 percent, which means the majority of moms deliver there without an epidural.

Natural labor isn’t simply something for mothers to endure. The process itself provides key mental and physical benefits for the mother and the baby, according to Dr. Linda Palmer, an author and speaker specializing in nutrition of pregnancy, lactation, childhood and infant health and bonding.

“When not interfered with, natural labor helps to protect the fetal brain, prepare his lungs and build his immune system,” Dr. Palmer stated in a blog at a motherhood website. “When uninterrupted, hormonal interplays provide imprinting and attachment between mother and baby, protect mother’s mood, and initiate instinctual parenting behaviors.”

There are many hormones involved with birth, including oxytocin and endorphins.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, helps labor progress and promotes regular contractions. If labor isn’t progressing, we use a medication called pitocin, a synthetic oxytocin.

Some things to know about oxytocin:

  • The oxytocin level naturally continues in the brain until about an hour after delivery.
  • It encourages feelings of love and happiness for their new baby.
  • It helps minimize the memories of labor discomfort.
  • It’s also helpful for breastfeeding success. It helps in the let down process and it creates a sense of calm and peacefulness.
  • For mom it also helps the uterus clamp down after delivery and it decreases excess bleeding.

When mom chooses anesthesia for labor, she doesn’t get the benefits that natural oxytocin would provide. The medicines interact with your body’s natural hormones.

Endorphins

The body’s natural pain reducers are called endorphins. They increase as labor progresses, helping mom cope with labor contractions. As contractions continue to become stronger and longer, the release of endorphins increases, helping mom handle the stronger contractions.

Have you ever heard of runner’s high? I don’t like to run and I don’t always want to exercise, but once I’m doing I feel good. I feel especially good afterward. That’s the release of endorphins. Moms who choose a natural birth feel this feeling with the delivery of their baby.

This natural hormone is similar to morphine or demerol. It continues being produced in the mom’s body until about two weeks after the birth of baby.

Endorphins are highest in a vaginal delivery without medication. Use of an epidural for pain management decreases the body’s production of endorphins. The body will produce even more endorphins when mom is calm and relaxed, which means relaxation helps mom in many ways during labor.

Epidurals and other medications interfere with natural oxytocin release and the release of endorphins. A natural childbirth without pain medications has benefits for both mom and baby.

Hopefully you now have even more reasons to have a natural birth.