Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
The human body is amazing - the heart beats more than 36 million times each year. A woman's body is incredibly designed to experience what is known as the miracle of life - childbirth.
There are several hormonal changes that must happen in the woman in order for her to have a successful conception, pregnancy and delivery. These include: prolactin, oxytocin, endorphins, relaxin and adrenalin.
Prolactin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland that stimulates an increase in the size of the breast tissue and milk production.
Oxytocin, also produced by the pituitary gland, is often known as the "hormone of love" because it is involved with lovemaking, fertility, contractions during labour and birth. It is responsible for the release of milk in breastfeeding, the bonding of mother to child and it helps us feel good.
Endorphins are calming and pain-relieving natural opiate hormones, whose levels may rise toward the end of pregnancy and continues to rise steadily and steeply, reaching its crescendo at the time of the birth of the baby. (Most studies have found a sharp drop in endorphin levels with the use of epidural or opioid pain medication). High endorphin levels during labour and birth can produce an altered state of consciousness that can help you flow with the process, even if it is long and challenging.
Secreted by the developing placenta, relaxin allows the mother's body to loosen up to facilitate pregnancy and delivery. Relaxin relaxes the intrauterine ligaments, allowing the uterus and pelvis to expand. Relaxin also relaxes other parts of her body, like arteries, which have to accommodate a much higher blood volume without sending her blood pressure through the roof. Her musculoskeletal system also loosens up, giving her more flexible joints and more curvature in the back to prepare for carrying and delivering a baby. Towards the end of pregnancy relaxin promotes the growth, opening and softening of the cervix and vagina to aid the process of childbirth. Relaxin is the reason the vaginal opening that is normally no more than 1.5 to 3 cm wide to expand by up to 800% to allow the delivery of a newborn.
In order for there to be a successful pregnancy and delivery, these hormones must be circulating in the woman's body in adequate amounts. The last hormone, adrenalin, must, however, be kept to a minimum.
Adrenaline is the "fight or flight" hormone that is produced in larger amounts during times of stress to help ensure survival. Women, who feel threatened during labour, may produce high levels of adrenaline. Adrenaline can slow labour or stop it altogether. This disruption is an instinct designed to help a birthing female, who feels like her or her offspring's life is in danger, to move to a place of greater safety and once there to be able to resume the delivery.
Too much adrenaline during labour and birth may:
As you prepare for motherhood, there are many factors to consider including the recruitment of health care providers who will guide you through the stages of pregnancy. Great consideration must be given to the environment where you give birth so as to minimise the possibility of adrenalin spikes which may lead to caesarean sections and other emergency interventions.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd. Website: www.gcnjamaica.com. Phone: 876-978-1050-1, 876-622-9241, 214-432-5464 (From the USA).