Are you overdue and anxious to give birth? You may be considering inducing labor yourself. While induced labor may not be for everyone, it is possible to do safely with the help of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that is naturally produced in your body and helps to induce labor. In this post, we will discuss how to release oxytocin to induce labor. We will also cover some of the risks and benefits of induced labor. If you are considering inducing labor, please consult with your healthcare provider first.
What IS Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone created by your body that does lots of things, including starting uterine contractions. It is made in your hypothalamus (which is near your brain), but secreted by the pituitary gland.
As your uterus contracts it pushes baby into the birth canal. The baby’s head passes through the cervix (the end of your cervix as it goes into the Vagina) similar to how your head might go through a tight sweater. This causes cervical dilation as baby moves down.
Understanding the labor process is pretty important to understand how to keep it going and progressing. I make it all SUPER easy to understand in here, come join me!
How is oxytocin controlled?
Oxytocin is controlled by different mechanisms depending on its purpose. For example, during childbirth, oxytocin production is stimulated by the stretching of the uterus as the baby moves down the birth canal. This stimulation increases oxytocin levels and leads to contractions of the uterus, which help push the baby out.
As you progress into the stages of labor, your body varies the level of oxytocin. There are waves with more oxytocin and then it may abate a bit to give the birthing person a break.
How to naturally increase oxytocin for labour
Oxytocin is a hormone that plays an important role in the process of labor and birth, as it stimulates contractions in the uterus and helps to regulate the flow of milk from the breasts. There are ways to increase it in your system.
To My Smart Readers: Please remember that baby isn’t considered “ready” to be born until 37 weeks of pregnancy and none of these ways should be used to start labor until your provider agrees you can try them. Although you may research some “natural ways to induce labor” that doesn’t mean that they may not be any less harmful for you or baby. Please consult with your doctor before making any actions aimed to making baby be born.
Two of the main natural ways that people use to stimulate oxytocin is:
By rubbing your nipples you can stimulate the release of oxytocin. In fact, at the hospital, we do something called a contraction stress test where the patient rubs their nipples to stimulate contractions, and then we see how baby reacts to those contractions.
You can do this just by rubbing/pulling at your nipples. But, some people use a breast pump or a husband. And of course, that can lead to….
Oxytocin is also one of the sex hormones. Many people call it the “feel good hormone” or the “love hormone” (although their reaction in people varies). So, sexual things, including orgasm can release oxytocin. Or, just cuddling and feeling good with your partner can help.
Sex itself has some unique ways to help. As the man releases seman, they also release prostaglandins into your vaginal canal. That, combined with the oxytocin you release with an orgasm can help to start labor. However, it depends on the couple and each’s comfort level.
Other ways to release oxytocin:
There are several ways to naturally increase oxytocin levels during pregnancy and labor.
One strategy is to engage in regular physical activity, as exercise increases oxytocin production and release. Additionally, spending time in nature can also boost oxytocin levels, as exposure to sunlight stimulates oxytocin production, while the calming scents of plants like lavender can also help to promote a sense of well-being.
Honestly, if you’re feeling good — it’s likely you’re producing some oxytocin. So, all of the things above may or MAY NOT work/help.
In addition, practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation can help to produce oxytocin naturally and reduce stress levels.
While relaxation is great, being worried or nervous can have the OPPOSITE effect in labor. It can turn OFF oxytocin when you’re just not sure what to expect. When you take a prenatal class you’re more prepared to let that oxytocin flow!
Of course, the reality is that babies come when they are ready.
You may have tried these things with no great results. Contractions start when your baby, your uterus, and your brain think it is time, so sometimes you just have to wait for them to each get on board.
How do doctors induce labor?
You might wonder what the hospital uses as a way to induce labor?
If you go in for an induction at the hospital, they use synthetic hormones (drugs) to induce labor.
The most often-used ones are:
The first two are prostaglandins that help soften the cervix and start mild contractions. They are most often given prior to the patient being 3 cm dilated.
Pitocin is the synthetic version of Oxytocin. They are chemically exactly the same, although there are some benefits to how Oxytocin is secreted near the brain (and has more “feel good” effects on it).
Risks of inducing labor
The main risk is that you would do it before baby is ready to be born.
However, induction of labor carries a lot of risks to the mother.
- Your uterus can contract too much and split open — which is called a uterine rupture
- Your uterus can contract too much which reduces blood flow to the baby (and all the squeezing may be too much for the baby)
- If you have too much oxytocin in labor it can be hard for your uterus to contract after you have the baby and prevent bleeding.
Those are the main risks, although the risks vary based on you and your own medical conditions, so be sure to talk with your provider before an induction of labor.
How do I Increase My Oxytocin During a Hospital Induction?
While sometimes a hospital induction is preferred or medically-necessary, there are ways that you can foster a good oxytocin release in from your own body even during a hospital induction:
Keep Your Connection To Your Partner
While most couples don’t do sexual acts during a hospital induction (frankly, I’m not sad about that), you can keep the connection alive by:
- Talking positively together
- Snuggling in bed (this may or may not work depending on the situation)
- Holding hands
- Your partner rubbing your back or feet during labor
These things can help get the oxytocin flowing!
The hospital isn’t really the most relaxing places — but there are things you can do help foster more relaxation and help increase your plasma oxytocin naturally:
- Keep the lights low in the room (safety is important too though so, some light can still be important)
- Limit/ quiet unnecessary alarms
- Having the door shut
- Having the curtain pulled to limit light/noise from the hallway or unexpected visitors
- Limit how many people are coming in you room, especially when you’re trying to rest
- Limit visitors to those you have a positive relationship with.
- Limit painful procedures (like vaginal exams) when you can
Even those these sound small, these ways to boost oxytocin naturally can really help you have a better birth (and make the process more pleasurable overall). These are good things to discuss with your provider and to put on your birth plan if you’d like to.
How can I induce labor naturally?
Honestly, that is beyond the scope of my practice. I don’t recommend midwives brew (which contains castor oil).
A study showed an effect of late pregnancy consumption of date fruit can decrease your length of labor and decrease your need for Pitocin to keep labor going (or go faster). So, that’s one thing to try at the end of pregnancy.
However, the methods in this article can help release oxytocin and possibly get things going.
The other good news is that they can just help you feel great.
Another thing that feels great is getting prepared. Fear can definitely keep the oxytocin from flowing — but when you feel confident about your hospital birth it really can help. The Online Prenatal Class for Couples aims to do that in just a few hours. Plus, it helps get your partner on your birth team. Cuddling during the class just gives bonus hormones. 😉
How is Oxytocin Used After Delivery By Your Body?
After baby is born, your placenta is delivered and you have a dinner-plate sizes scab on your uterus. Mother nature has a way where the uterus contracts back against itself to put pressure on the walls of the uterus to stop bleeding. Oxytocin is the main hormone in this process. In the hospital most patients are given Pitocin after delivery to prevent bleeding.
While a lot of people like to vilify the use of synthetic oxytocin in the hospital (that’s another topic), it’s important to understand that both oxytocin and the Pitocin given after delivery save a LOT of lives which I have seen with my own eyes. I am grateful for Pitocin and the life-saving capabilities it has (both for necessary inductions and preventing postpartum hemorrhage).
Ok, now it’s your turn — what types of ways have YOU heard to increase the oxytocin? I’d love it if you told us in the comments.
While I’d love to see you in The Online Prenatal Class for Couples!
If you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice. She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.
As an evidence-based prenatal educator Hilary has delivered thousands of babies and has educated hundreds of thousands of parents from a diverse patient population to help them have a confident birth.