Oxytocin and Baby’s Brain

Assumption: Maternal oxytocin benefits mom, but has no direct effect on baby.

(Note: The featured study was done on rats, so further research is needed to see if it is true for human brains.)  It appears from this study that oxytocin, the hormone that governs labor,  breastfeeding, and attachment; has a direct affect on a baby’s brain.  During birth, when the baby puts pressure on the cervix, oxytocin is released and the baby receives the hormone through the placenta.  The oxytocin appears to actually slow down the brain and “silence” nerve cells.  Because of this affect, birth itself has less of a traumatic effect on the baby and the baby can actually tolerate oxygen deprivation for up to an hour because the energy needs are reduced.


My Views:
What a neat finding!  I love it when the researchers discover more ways in which our bodies help us.  One hormone that can do so many positive things… and more being discovered!  It is truly amazing the many ways in which moms and babies are connected physically as well as emotionally.  And oxytocin is involved in both!  It is also important to note that synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) is not the same as naturally occuring oxytocin.  Maybe that gives me a topic to research for later this week!

Oxytocin for Slow Labor

Assumption: Use of oxytocin during a slowed first stage of labor will lead to faster delivery.

In studies of women whose labor had slowed during stage 1, oxytocin did shorten labor by an average of 2 hours.  It did not, however decrease cesarean rates or the use of instruments for delivery.


My Views:
As people look at the high cesarean section rate in our country, many try to find reasons it is so high.  Some have theorized that if slow labor was augmented by oxytocin the shorter labor would mean fewer surgical births would be necessary.  While the oxytocin did tend to shorten labor, there was no difference in cesarean rates.  That indicates to me that length of labor is not usually the cause of the cesarean delivery in cases of slow progression and that we need to keep looking!