You’ve probably heard of oxytocin – the ‘love hormone’.
It’s released when we’re happy and relaxed. It drives our desire to bond, particularly with a parent, child or lover.
Oxytocin is also well known for its role during sex, birth and breastfeeding.
Oxytocin During Pregnancy – 10 Ways To Boost The Love Hormone
During pregnancy, a great way to prepare for an undisturbed labour and birth is to ensure your body is regularly producing oxytocin.
In the last trimester of pregnancy, changes are already underway to prepare for labour. Progesterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise; this increases the body’s sensitivity to oxytocin.
The number of oxytocin receptors in your uterus increases, and oxytocin levels also begin to build up.
Labour is initiated by a complex process involving your baby’s readiness to survive outside the uterus.
When you’re very pregnant, or facing pressure from your care provider to be induced, it can be a challenge to wait for labour to begin on its own.
You want labour to get started but you know stressing about it won’t help.
Oxytocin stimulates the uterus to contract and labour to progress. Stress hormones, on the other hand, inhibit the production of oxytocin; this has the effect of stalling labour.
Here are 10 ways you can boost oxytocin production while you’re pregnant:
#1: Physical Touch
Cuddle your children. Snuggle your pet. Have sex with your partner. Get a massage. Ask a loved one to rub your back or your feet. If you have a favourite sensory touch ‘thing’, then maximise it.
Different types of touch release different levels of oxytocin into your body.
Mix up your touch interactions but be sure to hug someone you love as often as you can – this really boosts your oxytocin levels.
Today we live in a society of intense pressure and stress, and it can be hard to escape. This constant level of stress pushes oxytocin out of the way.
Choosing to incorporate some form of relaxation into your day is great, but try to go one step further. Choose to make that relaxation happen many times during the day.
It might take the form of meditation, prayer or mindfulness. Even five minutes of relaxation at a time, several times a day, can help your mind-body connection and make more room for oxytocin.
#3: Increase Positivity
The world can seem like a scary, and difficult place to live in at times. When we’re so closely connected to news media, and bombarded with negatives, it’s sometimes difficult to see things in a positive light.
If you’re on Facebook, make a point of commenting positively on photos or posts for a day. Choose good news to read, and get in touch with someone you haven’t had contact with for a while.
Try to put your phone away and communicate with people face to face instead. When you’re out and about, speak kindly to people you interact with – at the shops, for example.
Tune in to your partner and family, and really listen to them. It’s a great way to increase oxytocin. When you’re really present for others, you are making connections. This involves eye to eye contact, and putting your phone or other distractions aside.
Make time for the important people in your life.
It’s said laughter is the best medicine and we know it really does make us feel great. If you think about the last time you had a good belly laugh, you’ll probably remember that time positively. You felt good, and at peace with the world and those around you.
Smile and laugh often to keep oxytocin flowing. Find what makes you happy and do it, as often as you can.
This is a bit of a no-brainer. Exercise increases endorphins and oxytocin in the body; they are both ‘feel good’ hormones.
It doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise. Practising yoga or even walking around your local area will encourage oxytocin flow on a regular basis.
Your body is busy creating another human being, but what about your mind? It can be too easy to focus on the stresses of life when you have nothing to do. Making your creative juices flow, and creating something focuses your mind, as well as bringing a sense of satisfaction.
Whether you sew, paint, sing or write – even if you’ve never done any of those things before, but always wanted to – creating something is a wonderful way to increase happiness in your life.
When we bottle up our feelings, it results in less oxytocin and more stress hormones. This creates an imbalance, both in mind and body.
One of the most common symptoms of pregnancy is crying at the soppy commercials on TV or, when something minor happens, feeling as though it’s a big deal.
It’s ok to let these feelings out. It’s alright to cry and release the tension and negative feelings. If you feel depressed, seek some support from your partner and trusted care provider.
#8: Be Selfless
Selfless acts of kindness can give us a big boost of feel-good hormones. Gratitude can really make us remember how to be positive about life. Giving our time, energy and presence to those who need it is a way of bonding with others.
Oxytocin is the hormone mothers need to bond with their babies. Maximise your oxytocin production by volunteering, cooking meals for those in need, creating necessary items (e.g. knitting hats for premature babies), or giving gifts.
When was the last time you paid attention to your breath? Most people take shallow breaths, particularly when they’re feeling stressed.
Take some deep, cleansing breaths down to your belly. It will slow you down, connect you with your body, and release tension.
Try to find time every day to focus on your breath and follow it into your body. You will have the benefits of increasing your oxygen and oxytocin production, and you will feel less stressed.
We all have a soundtrack that uplifts and transports us. For some of us it’s music, and for others it’s the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Some people find zen in the silence of the outdoors, and others need to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of daily life.
Whatever your soundtrack is, make sure you tune in as often as you can. Regular exposure to sounds that make us feel good and positive is a surefire way to boost oxytocin.