'What should I pack in my hospital bag?': as a birth expert, this is the question I get asked the most.
Everybody wants to know the tips, tricks and hacks for the ultimate kit for labour. But here's the news: there is only one thing that you really need when you have your baby, and it's not luxury lipbalm or even disposable pants. It's the wonder hormone, oxytocin, and you literally can't give birth without it.
Also, know as the 'love hormone' and the 'cuddle chemical', oxytocin is the main hormone we make when we fall in love, give birth, breastfeed and bond with our babies. It gives us that warm, fuzzy feeling that we might associate with post-coital bliss. Oxytocin is so central to the process of giving birth that, if you don't make enough yourself, you will be given a synthetic version of it in a drip. And in this manufactured form, it's called 'syntocinon'. Fill your birthday bag to overflowing with oxytocin, and you're much more likely to have a smoother, easier and even less painful labour.
Oxytocin's chief job in labour itself is to strengthen and maintain contractions. The hormone is made in the pea-sized part of your brain called the hypothalmus, and it works on a positive feedback loop - the more you make, the more you keep producing. It's a very happy circle.
Understanding more about this wonder hormone is key to a positive birth, because knowing how to get your oxytocin flowing can really help to keep your labour progressing and help if it stalls or slows.
Here are 9 ways to boost your oxytocin levels...
1) Early StartDon’t wait ‘til your contractions start before you begin to think about oxytocin. In the final few days of pregnancy, think low light, low noise and low interruptions. So send your partner to the shops for those last-minute bits and bobs you need for your hospital bag!
2) NestTake your nesting instinct literally and create your very own nest. Whether you’re in ward, a birthing centre or at home, build a nest using blankets, pillows, yoga mats and cushions on the floor. When you give birth, you have the same needs as any other self-respecting mammal: you need to feel safe, warm and cosy.
3) Block everything outIf you’re not having a home birth where you can wholly control the noise and who’s visiting, then take proactive action. Use an eyemask and ear plugs or headphones, so you can escape into your own little world.
4) Get loved upMost of us have a fairly similar idea of the kind of environment we’d like to make love in… candles, log fire, soft rugs, and zero interruptions anyone? The reason we find this sexy is because of oxytocin, so build your birth space along similar lines. Oxytocin thrives on this kind of slightly cheesy romantic setting, and if you throw in a massage and a compilation playlist, then oxytocin will be over the moon in June!
5) Chill outYour partner may be understandably nervous, but tell them that right now, they simply need to be there for you. Let them guard your nest and keep you safe, and treat you with the utmost loving care.
6) KissMaking out with your partner during the early stages of labour is a great way to get the oxytocin flowing. Even if you’ve never done so before, labour is a great chance to really feel your feminine power as you embrace the sexual energy of making a new life. Kissing, locking eyes, loving talk, sexy talk, and whatever kind of touch you are in the mood for, will all help the oxytocin to flow. And simply having skin-to-contact with your partner will get the oxytocin flowing. You may want to ask the midwife to leave first though!
7) Twiddle your nipplesYep, this one is a bit of a taboo topic but, if you want to stimulate oxytocin, anything from nipple twiddling to masturbating to orgasm will help you to progress your labour. It can be especially helpful if your contractions are taking time to get established or are stop-start.
8) Feel the loveAs you wait for your baby, remember particular times in your life when you felt incredibly loving and loved, and look at photos of these moments to help you. Focus on your love for your soon-to-be-born baby, too. Think about how you already feel about him and visualise how much that love will grow when you first see his face and as you hold him. This is a great technique to use if you’re having a c-section.
9) Get skin-to-skinNo matter what kind of birth you have, get your baby, naked and prone on your own naked chest, as soon as possible. If you can’t have it right away, don’t worry– it will still feel wonderful hours or even days after the birth. And it does feel amazing, because you, and your baby, will be flooding with oxytocin. Enjoy this delicious feeling!
Make sure you're following Mother & Baby on Instagram for relatable memes, inspiring stories and parenting hacks!
Join the club! Introducing our brand, spankin’ new Facebook group called #mumtribe. Simply search ‘#mumtribe’ into the search bar and meet like-minded mums, win gorgeous goodies and have some fun!
Have approx 60 seconds to spare? Why not join thousands of mums-to-be and start your very own Amazon baby wish list! They're absolutely free to create and perfect to send to the friends, aunties and your mum to make sure you're getting the baby products you really need...Click here!