During your pregnancy you’ve probably come across the word Oxytocin. We have previously spoken about how it’s involved in the induction process, but how does it really work? How does your body know how to respond to oxytocin?

Oxytocin as a hormone plays a crucial role in childbirth, early postpartum period and for lactation. It’s produced and sent to the body from a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus. For an extra boost cells in the uterus produce oxytocin to aid in uterine contraction in labour.

When your body prepares for labour the uterus increases the amount of oxytocin receptors ready for birth. This means that it becomes more sensitive to the hormone and as we know oxytocin will help the uterus to contract to move baby Earth side.

For weeks leading up to birth your body is preparing for delivery.  Oxytocin is a part of a “hormone soup” that helps to stimulate the cervix to move and synchronises uterine contractions.

When your baby is sitting at the entrance of the cervix the pressure is sending signals up to your brain. This makes your brain produce 3-4 times more oxytocin. Your uterus is now contracting more regularly and circulation to the uterine muscles’ increases. Without this, your uterus wouldn’t be contracting to move the baby through the birthing canal.

Once a baby is born your uterus needs to return to the size it was prepartum. It does this by using oxytocin to make the uterine muscles contract. These oxytocin levels are influenced by skin-to-skin contact breastfeeding after birth, with levels highest at 15minutes postpartum.

Stress is something that has been shown to decrease the levels of oxytocin in the body during labour. Less oxytocin means a longer labour. Oxytocin can regulate the stress response during delivery by helping the body reduce anxiety. It’s the external stressors in labour that make the process slow down. Meaning that if we are stressed and anxious during delivery it is likely going to take longer to meet bub. Techniques discussed in hypnobirthing can help you learn how to reduce external anxiety to keep you calm during labour.

One of the best things oxytocin does is it has an amnesic effect. Meaning it makes you forget about the pain of childbirth. So hopefully this has helped you understand why this magnificent hormone helps your body meet little one.


Walter MH, Abele H, Plappert CF. The Role of Oxytocin and the Effect of Stress During Childbirth: Neurobiological Basics and Implications for Mother and Child. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021 Oct 27;12:742236. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.742236. PMID: 34777247; PMCID: PMC8578887. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8578887/