Hormones-the chemical messengers in our bodies-are one of the many facets that comprise a birth. Unseen to the naked eye, yet their effect is so profound and powerful that the course of a mother's labor can be dictated by these tiny particles. Although there are a number of hormones that play their part in maintaining and sustaining a pregnancy, there are a few renowned ones that cannot be ignored when labor contractions hit.
- Oxytocin: Often dubbed as the "love hormone", oxytocin's role before, during, and after labor is noteworthy. While examining human uteri (s. uterus), researchers have identified the concentration and distribution of oxytocin receptors to be the highest when pregnancy reaches term. This is fascinating as this affirms that a woman's body is adequately designed to prepare it for the birth of the baby. The amount of oxytocin produced by a laboring woman's body reaches its peak when she is in active labor, which makes the contractions stronger and harder. Eventually, oxytocin also helps the mother birth the placenta and causes milk ejection from the breasts when mother and baby bond with each other.
- Endorphins: A group of hormones promoted when oxytocin is released, endorphins are also known as "feel good hormones" because of their role in relieving childbirth pain. Even during the throes of labor, Allah (SWT) in His absolute mercy provides respite to the mother! ["And behold, with every hardship comes ease" - Surah Ash Sharh: 5]
- Melatonin: Released in accordance with our circadian cycles, melatonin is released during labor and helps to boost the function of oxytocin.
- Adrenaline: The feelings triggered by this hormone are often elicited by thinking about a saber tooth tiger ready to attack us. Adrenaline, or the "flight or fight hormone" is released in copious quantities when a laboring mother's sense of safety is threatened. This activated state usually causes the laboring mother's labor to slow, or even stop.
- Prolactin: A complementary hormone to oxytocin, prolactin production climaxes at birth and ensures that the baby's nutritional demands are met outside of the mother's womb too!
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[Image Credit | Landon Arnold @ Unsplash]