The importance of oxytocin during the third stage of labour is paramount in order to birth the placenta.

When your baby is born everyone wants to meet them, cuddle them and adore them.  The midwives on the other hand may want to take them from you to weigh them or possibly even rub them down vigorously with a towel!  Sometimes well-meaning loved ones may feel they are being helpful by holding your baby for you so you can shower or have a cup of tea.  This separation from your newborn baby will only ever serve to delay the birth of the placenta though as you need to be holding them for your levels of oxytocin to flow and you need the oxytocin for the birth of the placenta to occur.  

So how do we obtain this?  In order for your oxytocin to kick in, you, and you alone, need to hold your baby skin to skin for at least an hour after they’ve been born.  Sadly this isn’t something you learn about in your average book on birth or from your local hospital pregnancy and birthing group.  That first hour is often called the golden hour or the power hour where you will create the most amazing and incredibly important initial bond with your baby and feel an overwhelming sense of love like never before that will shake you to the core.  You will cry, you will smile, your baby will find the breast, it’s a feeling that’s very difficult to describe, it really does take over your whole body in the moment. 

the importance of oxytocin

I felt all this and so much more with my first baby Luka but when my second baby Marley came along after 44 hours of labour it was a different story.  I’d managed with the helpof my mum to keep the midwives at bay as they had arrived just as I was beginning to push and I knew I didn’t want any interruptions at that stage.  But as soon as he was born they came rushing in and scooped him up away from me to start rubbing him down with towels as they didn’t like the colour of his skin, which was purple and I’ve since learnt that is absolutely fine and nothing to be worried about at all.

They then tried to coerce me into forcibly giving birth to the placenta, at one point even tugging on the umbilical cord to get the placenta out.  This is such a dangerous procedure and could lead to haemorrhaging but I had no idea of that at the time.  Luckily I had an amazing doula who witnessed what they were trying to do and she ushered them out of the room and I demanded to take Marley back from them.  However, that rude interruption and separation from my baby was such an intense violation to my whole birthing experience and was more than enough reason to stop anything from happening to the placenta as my oxytocin was halted along with that feeling of utter joy and immediate sense of overwhelming love that I’d felt with my first born. 

For your oxytocin to flow you need your baby in your arms and peace and quiet and to just let the love pour out … as soon as the midwives were gone and I was able to relax with Marley again and I was finally left to my own devices to just look at him in awe and bond with him, the placenta was born with no problems whatsoever.  In fact I was sitting cowgirl style on the loo breastfeeding him at the time as that was the position that was most comfortable, I must hasten to add there was also a bucket down the loo to catch the placenta as it came out!  I can’t quite imagine the drainage problems we’d have had afterwards otherwise!

When my 3rd and 4th babies came along I was again separated from them immediately after birth by loving family members who wanted a cuddle.  This was nothing like what happened to me with Marley, they thought they were helping me so I could take a shower and even though that was the last thing on my mind and I had a strong urge to take my baby back, my people-pleasing nature meant I didn’t want to upset them.  So I said nothing for a while then finally made excuses to take them back but the moment had gone, that initial bond that sets you up on such a natural high.  I was left to just presume you never felt that initial wave of overwhelming emotions for any subsequent babies other than your first born.

Nine years later after chatting to a friend about her birthing experiences it finally dawned on me what was missing with mine and that was the oxytocin that comes with the initial bonding in the golden hour, it’s like a magical connection is formed with yours and your newborn baby’s oxytocin levels as they intertwine and fuse with the skin to skin contact.   

skin to skin

So if you take anything forward from this blog post and my own past experiences please please make sure after you’ve given birth you are given or demand the space and tranquility you need to bond and just “be” with your baby, just you, no one else, {well, maybe your husband or partner!} But there’s time for all the other introductions later.  And I promise during that time you have with your baby just after they’re born with no interruptions or separating you from them, that’s when the magic will happen oh, and the placenta will just slide out too! …

Watch my Youtube video on this topic if you found this blog interesting.

Photos by Blossom & Bloom Birth Photography

Read more on natural birthing and my blog post on Pheromones here

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