Recently aired on CBS’s The Early Show was a short discussion about VBAC and VBAC safety. It’s great to see Vaginal Birth After Cesareans (VBAC) being discussed in mainstream media, however, it is disappointing to see so few ‘benefits’ of a VBAC mentioned. One major benefit overlooked: the natural flow of hormones.
The physiological benefits of a natural birth are obvious to any woman who has experienced a successful vaginal birth or vaginal birth after cesarean. The feelings of joy, love, euphoria, compassion, and accomplishment are beyond words.
The natural hormonal cocktail that occurs throughout a natural labor and birth includes oxytocin, beta-endorphin, adrenaline and noradrenalin, prolactin. The level of each within the mother and child varies throughout the various stages of labor and in response to the progress and pain of labor. These hormones are known to be responsible for pain suppression, intensity and frequency of contractions, feelings of elation, feelings of love, milk production, placental ejection, uterine contractions after birth and a feeling of dependency and love between mother and child. It is also suspected that this endocrine process effects post partum depression and breastfeeding success. Dr. Sarah J. Buckley, MD discusses the hormone disruption and some immediate consequences:
Obviously there is a shorter or absent labor with cesarean birth, and the peaks of oxytocin, endorphins, catecholamines, and prolactin are reduced or absent…
The consequences of such radical departures from… (natural childbirth) …are suggested in the work of Australian researchers who interviewed 242 women in late pregnancy and again after birth. The 50 percent of women who had given spontaneous vaginal birth were the most likely to experience a marked improvement in mood and an elevation of self-esteem after delivery. In comparison, the 17 percent who had caesarean surgery were more likely to experience a decline in mood and self-esteem. The remaining women had forceps or vacuum assistance, and their mood and self-esteem were, on average, unaltered.
Another study looked at the breastfeeding hormones prolactin and oxytocin on day two, comparing women who had given birth vaginally with women who had undergone emergency cesarean surgery. In the cesarean group, prolactin levels did not rise as expected with breastfeeding, and the oxytocin pulses were reduced or absent…
(http://www.sarahjbuckley.com/articles/ecstatic-birth.htm) Dr. Buckely also describes the effects of pitocin in detail – check it out it’s an interesting read.
So tell me:
Why is a cesarean delivery and a vaginal delivery discussed as though they are equal choices for birthing options?
Why isn’t the hormonal process discussed more prominently during birthing discussions?