We midwives are addicted. Our drug of choice: C43H66N12O12S2.
Preferred method of intake: inhalation.
Oxytocin is the hormone of LOVE. We all have it (male & female). It’s secreted when we share a meal, sing a song or listen to music, snuggle, and during sex, birth and breastfeeding. Dr. Michel Odent says, “Whatever facet of love we consider, oxytocin is involved.”
Oxytocin causes the rhythmic uterine contractions of labor and is responsible for other facets of birth. High maternal levels cross the placenta and enter the baby’s brain protecting fetal brain cells, and the baby also produces it’s own oxytocin during labor. In the minutes following birth both mother and baby are “bathed in an ecstatic cocktail of hormones.” Oxytocin production is enhanced by skin-to-skin and eye-to-eye contact (contributing to bonding) and the levels remain high for days and weeks after the birth. It peaks in mom and newborn for an hour after birth.
And here’s the cool thing: Other people present in the room at this time will receive a dose of oxytocin too. I always thought it was just being there in the presence of the miracle & joy of birth that made me happy–but it’s more scientific than that. We are actually breathing in the oxytocin that the mother and baby are releasing–through the air! through pheromones! Part of that cocktail of hormones includes beta-endorphins, our bodies’ naturally occurring opiates. So, we really are snorting an addictive substance!
Sunday, I attended my first birth since returning from the Dominican Republic. It had been a month since I’d been at a delivery and I needed a fix. I get rather grumpy when going through withdrawal–I feel better now. Driving home that night my homestretch song was Come Sail Away by Styx. I laughed while singing the line “I thought that they were angels, but to my surprise They climbed aboard their starship and headed for the skies Singing come sail away. . .” Whoever wrote that line–yeah, that’s another kind of high.