Melatonin and labor

laboring in the dark

Laboring in the dark

I heard about the study that reaffirms what other mammals have known instinctively for thousands of years… birth should happen in a dark, comfortable place. It also helps explain why most women go into labor in the middle of the night. And why so many labors slow down or stall in a hospital setting. Most  of my early labors began in the middle of the night. As well as most of them were born at night or early morning. Even with Sebastian birth story whom was a forced induction I went from 3cm to a baby born in an hour at 1:30 am. after I was sitting in a rocking chair in the dark.

The study’s abstract says this in conclusion: “[Melatonin] synergizes with [oxytocin] to promote [uterine smooth muscle] contractions and to facilitate gap junction activity [in a controlled testing environment]. Such a synergy in [a living human] would promote coordinated and forceful contractions of the late term pregnant uterus necessary for [childbirth]” (Sharkey, Puttaramu, Word and Olcese, “Melatonin Synergizes with Oxytocin to Enhance Contractility of Human Myometrial Smooth Muscle Cells“)

 It makes complete sense! Melatonin is the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. Our bodies increase production of melatonin in darkness, and most humans’ melatonin levels peak in the wee hours of the morning. Daylight and artificial light reduce melatonin production.
 
Some of the most effective coping strategies for labor are –progressive relaxation, hypnobirthing, visualization, breathing techniques–so it makes sense why they’re so helpful.
So… let’s just be logical here… if melatonin and oxytocin synergize to produce labor contractions, wouldn’t it make sense to do everything possible to keep melatonin levels high during childbirth?
And, let’s just be logical again… how well do you think a woman can  use coping techniques when she’s…
1) In a sterile, cold, artificially bright, unfamiliar setting?
2) Having an IV inserted, being given forms to sign, or being asked irritating questions about her social security number mid-contraction?
3) Being relentlessly interrupted by hospital staff coming in and out, sticking their fingers inside of her?
Unfortunately, just about everything about a hospital makes it one of the most difficult  possible places to facilitate childbirth progress. If you really want to facilitate the birth process, take a lesson from your pet cat. Turn off the lights!
Some may wonder how is this possible in a hospital setting? First, if possible labor at home as long as possible . When the time comes to head to the hospital (if not a homebirth) make the transition calm , wear sunglasses , play relaxing music in route. Once you arrive at the place of birth, get to a comfortable place, request lights off or dim. Request minimal distractions.  Do whatever you can to relax and get into a sleep-like relaxed state. Let your body do what it already knows how to do. 
 TRUST YOUR BODY.If/When it’s time to leave your dark/comfortable nest, take along some sunglasses and someone who can protect your birthing space from unnecessary distractions and interruptions. 
Keep those melatonin levels high!
I have to wonder if a mom that is really stalling would benefit from a small dose of oral melatonin. I know some OB’s and midwives have actually suggested it to their clients and it seemed to make that difference.