Friday, March 29, 2013

Searcher - Pitocin versus Oxytocin

There seems to be these drastically conflicting images surrounding birth. On the one hand, birth is regard as a beautiful, miraculous event in which another being is created from the mother’s being, emerging new in this world. On the other hand, it has been widely represented as dangerous, excruciating, and an unnatural process for the mother.

The only images of birth I have seen up until now are of mothers-to-be, lying helplessly on their backs, writhing in agony, in a cold room, surrounded by overly-protected medical practitioners yelling commands and prodding at the mother. The whole operation seemed doomed with fear, danger, embarrassment and uncertainty. Honestly, how is this supposed to be a beautiful experience?

Bearing a child does not have to be a traumatizing experience though. Perhaps, these two opposite extreme images surrounding birth exist because two very different approaches to birth have to be considered.  One consists of the heavily drugged-intervened hospital approach and the other is an all-natural home birth approach. There are obviously many in between scenarios that take advantage of both approaches.

There is a very important aspect to the all-natural approach however that needs to be considered. After watching The Business of Being Born, labor and birth can be a very transcendent experience for the woman. And really I think it’s truly close to thievery to steal that empowering moment from her.

The oxytocin that the mother’s body releases during the birthing process is not only important for physiological reasons, such as in the labor process, bonding with the child after birth and breast feeding, but for psychological ones as well. Oxytocin acts to ease stress. So imagine, laboring extensively for hours on end, to finally birth your own child. With a rush of oxytocin and the relief of labor being over, that feeling must be overwhelmingly amazing.

There has been plenty of research to suggest that administering pitocin, synthetic oxytocin, to mothers in labor interrupts this feeling for the mother and the bonding between mother and child. There was a studied done in 2007 in BMC Neuroscience, conducted at the University of Memphis, that suggests that pitocin can have long term effects to the child’s nervous system too, affecting their social behavior.

The study does not necessarily suggest that these effects happen in humans, because the study was done on voles. The study theorizes that the interaction between mother and offspring after birth greatly influences the future social behavior of the offspring; this is at least true for the voles. It is clear, however, that administering pitocin directly influences the post-natal interaction between a mother and a child. 

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