“Birth High” After Delivery

After a natural physiological birth, did you feel kind of out of it? Say some super funny things? Not know exactly what was going on for a little while after delivery? This is what we call the “After Birth High”! But why does this happen?!

During physiological – undisturbed labor/birth we experience a normal hormonal chain of reaction that leads to delivery. The 3 main components of this process are Beta Endorphins, Catecholamines, and Oxytocin. We elaborate in full on how each of these work together in our Birthkeeper & Doula certification program, I will briefly explain below.

Hormonal Changes During Delivery

Beta endorphins are natural and powerful pain suppressors released from the pituitary gland! They are also the main cause of the after-birth high when birth is left unhindered (no drugs added – no epidural). Studies have found a sharp decrease in endorphins when using an epidural. Low endorphins have been linked to post-partum depression and limited or decreased maternal bonding. So – AVOID the epidural if you can!

Effects of Epidural Anesthesia During Labor on Maternal Plasma Beta-Endorphin Levels – NCBI
Pain and Plasma Beta-Endorphins During Labor – NCBI

Catecholamines are hormones produced by the adrenal gland. The 3 main catecholamines are Dopamine, Epinephrine (Adrenaline), and Norepinephrine. This is where the adrenaline comes into play! When birth is left untouched by pharmaceuticals, there are high levels of adrenaline coursing through the body. The Norepinephine is what causes the Fetal Ejection Reflex (FER), more on that in our course!  Having an epidural will cause catecholamines to be virtually non-existent because you are no longer under any type of stress! This hinders  the postpartum period and takes away from the naturally occurring “Birth High”.

Maternal Catecholamines Decrease During Labor after Lumbar Epidural Anesthesia – NCBI

Oxytocin is what makes our contractions occur. Oxytocin can stop flowing when a mother feels uncomfortable, afraid, or harmed. These feelings tell the body to stop labor to protect baby from an unsafe birth environment. Many times, women will experience contractions very regularly, get to the hospital and it all stalls out.  This is because the oxytocin is being suppressed. Often times, providers suggest synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) to pick it back up. The issue with Pitocin is that it REPLACES naturally occurring oxytocin. We know what happens when we mess with physiology, a cascade of events is automatically a variable. When birth is left unhindered, your catecholamines and oxytocin work together at a perfect mixture to ensure baby’s arrival!

If you’ve had an “After Birth High”, feel free to share about it! Did you say something totally off the wall?! Did you look out of it like I do in my photo? 

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