Labor is important, because during labor, both the mother's and the baby's body is prepared for birth. The levels of certain hormones rise and ebb during labor. For instance, the mother's oxytocin levels rise markedly just before the baby is pushed out of her body. This protects her against postpartum hemorrhage. High oxytocin levels in the mother (which are accompanied by higher levels in the baby, too) prepare the nervous systems of both to be attuned to each other. . . . The euphoria that follows an unmedicated labor is a very special time for anyone who is privileged to witness it. It's even better for those who get to experience it.
When the mother experiences labor, she also has higher levels than usual of beta endorphin. This hormone then triggers another hormone, prolactin, which prompts her body to get ready for milk production at the same time that it prepares the baby's lungs for more efficient breathing.
Labor also gives the baby's torso a good squeeze, which helps to dry out the lungs and make them ready for breathing air in the outside world. Cesarean-born babies typically have wetter lungs, which can mean a higher rate of needing breathing assistance at birth. (Interview with Ina May Gaskin by Stacy Fine)
Friday, February 1, 2008
Labor is important
Ina May Gaskin, revered by many as "the greatest midwife in the world," explains: