I absolutely ADORE Marianne’s“Spiritual Birth” website. Her insights and information are WONDERFUL! I also ADORE Oxytocin. What a REAL gift! The article below is concise of what oxytocin is and how it is VITAL for the birth environment.
I really fell in LOVE with oxytocin about 4 years ago. I thought I understood what a POWERHOUSE hormone it was but until I spent the last 4 years researching it, I didn’t recognize its potential for change in the human system.
As I learned more about adrenaline and the production of cortisol in labor, I realized that unless women could remove fears, myths and negative thought patterns surrounding birth, it would be IMPOSSIBLE for her to be able to have the birth experience or connecting/bonding experience with her baby that she desired. It really is that SIMPLE.
When fears are stimulated during the birth process, because of unresolved pain or beliefs regarding pregnancy/birth, adrenaline is then released into the blood stream. Once adrenaline is release, BEFORE the second stage of labor, the body then struggles to produce the needed oxytocin to keep contractions going…along with increasing the production of endorphins- our pleasure seeking hormones.
You see, when the body is relaxed, tranquil and at peace during birth, it can then do its job of oxytocin production and release. Oxytocin and endorphins go hand in hand. It seems you can’t have one without the other. When adrenaline and cortisol are present, oxytocin present within the body is greatly diminished. The release of adrenaline/cortisol actually counteracts oxytocin release. The body then struggles to keep oxytocin production present and in a high effecting state especially during the process of labor and delivery.
Without high oxytocin release, the contractions during birth can actually become more painful and less productive. Once adrenaline is being pumped into the system, endorphins are also lowered. You are no longer having effective uterine contractions along with them being more painful AND you are not producing the needed endorphins to aid in the shift from pain to pleasure.
This is where the idea of ORGASMIC BIRTH steps in. When fears are released and replaced during pregnancy, or better yet BEFORE conception, the birth process can actually become pleasurable. Even ORGASMIC. I just recently posted a video of a women in labor having an ORGASMIC BIRTH.
I promise….pleasurable, enlightening, even transformative….pregnancy and birth is happening ALL the time. It only takes a shift in your perceptions of pregnancy/birth and healing any personal or generational trauma you might carry surrounding pregnancy/birth. Its truly that easy!
Healing and repairing those fears can feel hard in the middle of it but the rewards are more than WORTH IT! Though I have yet to have an orgasmic birth, I have felt the many rewards of looking inward for healing and wholeness to be able to birth my babies in peace and bliss.
I hope you take the time to read both articles below. The last article shows how fear and love play into the world of oxytocin and cortisol. Also, I am posting a couple videos on the AMAZING healing effects of oxytocin. Its not just a hormone for birth. I will write more about that later so check back.
I want to add if there is anything that might be interesting to you that you want me to post about, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am more than happy and willing to research and write up about any topic of interest to any of my followers. 🙂
Oxytocin, the hormone of love, stimulates the release of a chemical messenger called “atrial natriuretic peptide” by cells in the heart muscle. In other words, oxytocin affects the heart! Oxytocin molecules are molecules of love, the neurotransmitters of those warm feelings that make us feel warm and relaxed, kind and helpful towards others, social and friendly rather than terse
Skin to skin contact stimulates the release of oxytocin
and defensive, open and receptive rather than hard and aggressive. Let’s project into the future and imagine a world where humans exist in a group state of social cohesion, mutual affection and co-operation. What are the ingredients needed in the physiology of our bodily make-up? and how do we ensure that these ingredients are available to each of us? Oxytocin is released by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain, but without oxytocin receptors in the body, it has a hard time spreading its effects around.
Apparently oxytocin receptor cells exist not only in the uterus, cervix and the breasts, but also in the particular areas of the brain, the heart, the gut, the placenta and the inner layer of the amniotic sac surrounding the baby. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research have just discovered that there are pathways or nerve connections in the brain that transport oxytocin from one part of the brain to another. The inference is that we are wired to release and transport oxytocin.
The question is, what are the behaviours that will trigger the inception of optimal neuron requirements for oxytocin in the preborn and newborn human infant. It is known that the brain is plastic and has the capacity to create and grow in leaps and bounds at particular sensitive periods of human development. Parents with high concentrations of oxytocin present in their bodies display more loving and playful attention to their babies and children.
An oxytocic kiss induces a blissful smile in this newborn baby
Women need oxytocin receptors in the uterus in order to labour and give birth effectively and it has been found that oxytocin receptor density varies among women. The reasons for this are as yet unknown, however it is possible that women with a history of early traumatic childhood experiences are unable to make sufficient receptor cells for oxytocin as a result of increased levels of cortisol or catecholamines in their system. It is known that survivors of childhood abuse show a decrease in the size of the hippocampus, which is part of the brain involved in emotional responsivity. If oxytocin is such an important mediator of social behaviour then why do we routinely disturb the first contact between mother and baby as well as father and baby?
Conception, pregnancy, birth, newborn period and early childhood would seem to me to be the most critical periods of human development. The known behaviours that stimulate oxytocin release are touch, eye contact, privacy in contact, movement and dance, laughter, food, play, kindness, empathy, pleasure, togetherness. If these are the situations that create oxytocin receptivity, then our pro-action should be to empower and educate women and men everywhere, to teach young people about preconception, pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, to set up support systems that encourage non-violence and non-separation in maternity care and parenting.
The Oxytocin Molecule
It appears that the institutionalization of human beings at the most critical periods in their lives may well be a dire mistake in terms of our capacity to love each other, to care for our environment and may ultimately put our survival on earth at risk. It also appears that we have the capacity to increase our adaptivity as a species and our capacity for loving social bonds by increasing the chances for optimal oxytocin concentrations in our bodies and brains. Obstetricians, paediatricians, neuroscientists, psychiatrists, psychologists, midwives, doulas and caregivers all need to collaborate on creating a paradigm of love and utilize our inbuilt molecules of love to the fullest possible degree. To do this we will need to humanize maternity care, increase the number of practicing midwives and doulas and facilitate inter-disciplinary collaboration. It is a public health imperative and it is possible.
Various spiritual teachings say that there are only two fundamental emotions: love and fear. For the body, this is true. All mammals, including humans, have two opposing hormonal responses to stimuli. Threatening stimuli cause an increase of stress hormones—adrenaline and cortisol. Soothing or reassuring stimuli cause an increase in oxytocin. A sudden threat triggers the fight-or-flight response associated with adrenaline.
Adrenaline steps up heart rate, increases respiration, activates muscles, and promotes hyper-alertness. Longer-term stress (from a few minutes to days and weeks) increases a different stress hormone: cortisol. Cortisol, too, makes us hyper-vigilant, but its evolutionary functions are quite different than the temporary jolt of adrenaline designed to propel us out of danger.
The stress encountered by mammals—and our hunter-gatherer ancestors—was chiefly physical, not emotional. The most common physical stressors were probably starvation, long migrations, and critical injury. To cope with such emergencies, cortisol begins to break down non-essential organs and tissues to maintain blood sugar and feed vital organs. When cortisol stays at high levels, it automatically digests bones, muscles and joints to obtain these key nutrients. The result is elevated blood fats and sugar, which are related to many disorders.
Another side effect is hunger; we reach for high-calorie foods. Today our biggest long-term stressors are emotional and mental, not physical. In effect, we are a “new” scientific experiment. We face threats in the form of potential job loss, the pressure of commuting in heavy traffic, a barrage of fear-producing media, relationship disharmony in a marriage, etc. Even though these are not physical threats, our body has only one, automatic response: more cortisol. Cortisol is very hard on the body, so all these threats indirectly become physical threats.
Fortunately, we have a built-in mechanism for countering stress, which forms the basis of our alternative response to stimuli. It entails another hormone, called oxytocin. Apart from its functions of inducing emotional bonding, labor, and lactation, oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol. This anti-stress effect of oxytocin is a recent discovery, and very exciting, because it points the way to better health by entirely natural means.
Fear – Cortisol
Love – Oxytocin
Arousal, Anxiety, Feeling stressed-out
Feeling calm and connected, Increased curiosity
Lessens cravings & addictions
Increases sexual receptivity
Associated with depression
Can be toxic to brain cells
Breaks down muscles, bones and joints
Repairs, heals and restores
Faster wound healing
Diminishes sense of pain
Clogs arteries, Promotes heart disease and high blood pressure
Lowers blood pressure, Protects against heart disease
Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis
As you can see from the chart above, nearly all the negative effects of continuedstress on the body and mind are related to elevated levels of cortisol. These include: chronic anxiety and depression, emotional over-reaction, negativity, weight gain, heart disease, high blood pressure, and weakened immunity. Oxytocin, by countering cortisol, can ameliorate all of these conditions—as well as some others (see list of recent discoveries at end of article).
Numerous activities produce more oxytocin: meditation, yoga, exercise, massage, caring for a pet, joining a support group, worshiping, and so forth. Yet one of the most important avenues for decreasing stress and increasing levels of oxytocin lies in our intimate relationships. In Love & Survival, Dr. Dean Ornish points out that love and intimacy are such powerful determinants of health that if they were produced in pill form, doctors who failed to prescribe them for unhealthy patients would be guilty of malpractice. Incidentally, one might wonder why we can’t just take oxytocin pills to increase levels of this helpful hormone. Unfortunately, oxytocin doesn’t cross the body’s “blood/brain barrier,” except in the form of nasal sprays. However, long-term administration of oxytocin via spray has resulted in amnesia, hallucinations and imbalances in electrolytes and hormones. To gain its benefits, we must either produce it naturally in the brain (or have it injected with great precision into a tiny area of the brain using special equipment…not terribly practical).
Oxytocin has been nicknamed the “bonding hormone” and the “cuddle hormone.” We produce it naturally when we love, are loved, nurture another, give selflessly, or engage in affectionate touch. It is not the neurochemical behind lust or burning sexual desire, although it is associated with sexual responsiveness.
When we choose to make love by avoiding the stress-producing cycle of highs and lows of conventional sex with its attendant anger, resentment and discouragement—and substitute a very selfless, affectionate, more balanced form of lovemaking such as Karezza or Taoist lovemaking—we can improve our health and wellbeing. This shift takes time, and the effects are subtle at first. Yet consistency can lead to profound improvements in wellbeing in a surprisingly short time.
Oxytocin equates with love; we could not fall in love without it. Cortisol equates with fear. These different hormones generate these opposing emotions, just as the emotions of love and fear trigger the production of these respective hormones. In other words, neurochemicals and behavior are circular. This means that with a bit of awareness and determination we can consciously direct our behavior toward the maintenance of our ideal hormonal balance.
By the way, oxytocin is a very unique neurochemical; the more oxytocin we make, the stronger our body and mind respond to it. Our nerve cells actually sprout more oxytocin receptors, making them more sensitive to its effects. It grows easier and easier to be loving. Oxytocin is the neurochemical basis for the adage, “The more you give, the more you get.”
Love tends to breed more love, and fear tends to breed more fear. It’s up to us. Recent findings demonstrating the power of oxytocin:
Oxytocin reduces fear. Increased levels of oxytocin inhibit the fight or flight response in the brain. (Huber, 2005)
Oxytocin speeds healing. Wounded hamsters heal twice as fast when they are paired with a sibling, rather than left in isolation (DeVries, 2004).
Oxytocin counters cravings for sweets. (Billings, 2006).
Oxytocin reduces antisocial behavior. The administration of oxytocin normalized social behaviors in animals exhibiting schizophrenia. (Lee, 2005)
Oxytocin promotes healthy social behavior. Administration of oxytocin reduces symptoms of autism. (Hollander, 2003)
Oxytocin reduces cravings. When scientists administered it to rodents who were addicted to cocaine, morphine, or heroin, the rats opted for less drugs, or showed fewer symptoms of withdrawal. (Kovacs, 1998)
Oxytocin calms. A single rat injected with oxytocin has a calming effect on a cage full of anxious rats. (Agren, 2002)
Oxytocin levels were higher in both men and women who reported greater partner support. (Grewen, 2005)
Oxytocin appears be a major reason that SSRI’s ease depression, perhaps because high levels of cortisol are the chief culprits in depression and anxiety disorders. (Uvnas-Moberg, 1999)
Oxytocin increases sexual receptivity and counteracts impotence , which may explain why this other way of making love remains pleasurable. (Pedersen, C.A., 2002), (Arletti, 1997)
Oxytocin counteracts the effects of cortisol, the stress hormone. Increased levels of oxytocin in the brain decrease levels of blood cortisol. (Legros, 2003)
Oxytocin may increase longevity. Companionship can increase longevity—even among those who are HIV positive (Young, 2004). Oxytocin may also explain why, among various species of primates, care-giving parents (whether male or female) live significantly longer. (Cal Tech, 1998)