'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 lip balm or even disposable pants. It's the wonder hormone, oxytocin, and you literally can't give birth without it.
What is oxytocin?
Also known 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 hypothalamus, 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.
How to naturally increase oxytocin for labour
1) Early Start
Don’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!