Boosting Endorphins During Labor
For those of you that are choosing a physiological labor and birth, congratulations, you get a nice flow of beta-endorphins with surges of oxytocin, as needed!
If you are experiencing induction, utilizing prescription pain relievers, or even getting an IV bag of Pitocin postpartum, you need to be stimulating your beta-endorphins.
If you’ve ever wondered why many say that Pitocin births are much more painful than a birth that does not involve synthetic oxytocin, it is because beta-endorphins don’t respond in the same way to artificial hormones as they do to our own. Therefore, the natural pain relief that your body would normally give you in response to contractions, is minimal to none.
As well, the body does not respond the same way in regards to bonding with baby when hormones, including beta-endorphins are disturbed. The utilization of an epidural and other pain relieving drugs, especially opiates and narcotics, disturbs the natural process of beta-endorphin release during labor. This can impact breastfeeding, mental wellness postpartum, and more.
So what do you do if you find yourself having already been induced and struggling to cope with the pain, or having received an epidural and wanting to make sure you bond with your baby entirely?
First of all, it is ALWAYS an option to either turn whatever is flowing, OFF, just so that is clear. And if you don’t feel comfortable turning it all the way off, the dose can be set to the absolute minimum.
Next, it’s vital that you take extra measures to increase those endorphins, no matter the situation, to enhance your experience.
How can you naturally enhance endorphins?
Grab yourself some COCOA. Rich dark chocolate is your best bet, as the more raw the cocoa (over 70% cocoa is found to be most effective) the better chances you have of increasing your endorphins.
If you absolutely can’t stomach dark chocolate, opt for a quick sugar boost. Sugar also triggers endorphin release, even though it’s not always as healthy as cocoa. A couple honey sticks, a candy bar, a nice sized bowl of fruit, whatever your preferred choice of sugar might be, can make your brain light up with endorphins!
More of a spicy kind of gal? Spice works just as well for endorphin boosting! Chilli peppers contain Capsaicin and especially when eaten fresh and warm, can have a powerful endorphin effect.
Diffuse Lavendar and Vanilla Essential Oils. Both have been found in studies to improve endorphins and reduce stress levels in ill patients, they are both safe for pregnant mamas and babies, and who DOESNT love those smells…
Dance or do a safe exercise routine with your doula, mama, partner, all of the above, or even by yourself. Research has found that endorphin release is most effective in a group setting, but solo exercise still triggers endorphin release, too. If you have an epidural, it may be difficult to exercise but you can at least move as much as you are able to do, safely!
And if your dance or exercise routine can be made silly to make you giggle, that’s even better! Laughing also triggers endorphin release!
Acupressure points, the use of reflexology, TENS units and sterile water injections may also be of benefit to you, by triggering nerves in another part of the body, which is both distracting from contraction pain, as well as a signal to the brain to make you some more endorphins for relief!
Get as intimate with your partner as possible in your setting. If youre being induced or have an epidural, it’s very likely youre in the hospital, and making love is not an option as far as increasing endorphins, but lots of snuggles, nipple stimulation, your partner talking to baby, affirming and supporting you, kissing, holding hands, and as much intimacy as you are comfortable with in that setting, can only be of benefit to you and your body!
Postpartum, get baby skin to skin and interact with that tiny human as much as possible. Smell them, lick them, kiss them, touch them, talk to them, eye gaze with them, do ALL THE THINGS to fully immerse yourself in the ocean of love and goodness that is your baby. This will increase your likelihood of bonding, and aide your breastmilk supply.
Ultimately the best way to have a perfect amount of endorphins, is to avoid disturbing the physiological birth process, but since we all know that doesn’t always occur, hopefully this helps some people out to have a better experience for themselves and their babies!