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HORMONES! We can't see them but do you know that we are aboslutely, wholly and completely reliant on them to CONCEIVE, GROW, BIRTH and FEED our babies, in other words, we wouldn't exist if it wasn't for hormones. So maybe we should know a bit more about them seeing as they are so important for human evolution. Because our environment and our feelings directly affect the hormones we release, so in other words our feelings and environment can effect negatively or positively our birth and breastfeeding experiences.

OXYTOCIN is the important one in all this. It is released when we orgasm (makes the baby) It is responsible for activating the uterus muscles to work (ie contractions/surges - births the baby) And it is released when a baby is at the breast and activates the milk letdown reflex (feeds the baby) Could I go as far to say that if we are reliant on an orgasmic hormone to give birth, could birth be enjoyable?!! I'm sure we all enjoy the orgasms that come with (ahem unintentional pun there) our own oxytocin release.

OXYTOCIN is know as the shy hormone. Think about those times releasing your own oxytocin with your partner, the environment was private, dim lighting, eyes closed allowing for completely instinctual behaviour. You felt SAFE, LOVED and UNINHIBITED. If a stranger was to walk in the room turn the lights on and direct conversation at you, could you possibly continue with your intimate moments? I'm guessing not. Your body would go on alert, adrenaline would be released, inhibiting oxytocin at the same time. You would feel startled, scared and spectated upon.

Think of this in a birth setting, a mum feeling SAFE and LOVED at home, having early surges, feeling uninhibited to walk, make sounds, follow her bodys intsincts, oxytocin releasing in waves to surge the uterus muscles and also triggering the release of pain relieving endorphins which in turn create more oxytocin.

Then factor in a car journey to the hospital, conversing with midwives, bright lights, strange room. Instructed to lie down and be examined by someone she doesn't know in the place that is only for those special times with her partner. And think of what that does to our shy hormone oxytocin. It cannot be released when a mum feels on alert or anxious, replaced by stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol, which eliminate oxytociin and those all important pain relieving endorphins, making labour slow, and more painful. All because the environment changed along with mums feelings.

It doesn't have to be like this and of course if you have the knowledge and confidence and have planned your birth with an open mind. You will have the tools to remain CALM, RELAXED and IN CONTROL regardless of how your birth happens.

Women, families in fact EVERYONE needs to be educated about birth. There is nothing to gain from watching dramatised birth on TV. No one is doing you any good by 'preparing you' for birth by telling you their traumatic story. And One Born Every Minute - don't get me started on that! All this does is cause all those stress hormones to be released into your body and hinder the natural birth process, and so the cycle continues.

If you have had a good birth TELL PEOPLE! It's not showing off, it also doesn't mean that every pregnant woman listening will experience the same birth as you (I'd be out of a job if that were true!) But its a small step in the right direction to changing peoples expectations of birth, which changes how they feel about birth, which changes how they prepare for birth, WHICH WILL CHANGE HOW THEY GIVE BIRTH.

Because great births start with Great Expectations :)

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