Future of Childbirth and Love…

Is it all in our heads?

Looking back at how the women of humanity have delivered their babies from the beginning of time, it is safe to say that until very recently, we had to rely on our own bodies to do the work – not doctors or synthetic processes!

Today we have a C-section rate of 40% in the UK, and most of this comes down to intervention – or a cascade of so. How did humanity thrive in a time where hospitals, midwives and obstetricians did not exist? Are there any evolutionary implications in the change of how we have babies now, compared to then?

 In light of epigenetics and recent scientific ideas, it is becoming acceptable to claim that when organs or physiological functions are underused they become weaker from generation to generation. 

In our bodies we have physiological systems – such as the digestive system and the nervous system – that keep our bodies working correctly. Although these are usually crucial for our bodily functions, one human physiological function has suddenly become less useful, and this is the oxytocin system. 

When we are giving birth to a baby, our body’s natural production of the hormone oxytocin is much to thank. This is part of a complex hormonal flow which is one of the many works of our wonderful endocrine system. Chemicals are secreted from the brain to regulate the bodies internal environment, and oxytocin plays the key role in childbirth: initiating contractions. Oxytocin also helps to relax the mother during labour, reducing stress and promoting feelings of love and wellbeing. 

 (Oxytocin is also involved in all aspects of our reproductive or sexual life, in socialisation, and in all facets of the capability to love, which might include respect for ‘Mother Earth’).

When we think about giving birth today, we tend to think about hospitals, stress, drug use and pain! As it stands in the present, the use of synthetic oxytocin (syntocinon) is by far the most common medical intervention in childbirth. It is used to force intense uterine contractions in women to induce and speed up the process of birthing both the baby and the placenta. The contractions caused by synthetic oxytocin are extremely painful and can depict a slow and arduous labour, which can often result ultimately in a caesarean section delivery of the baby. (There will be a separate blog looking further into this).

It can be seen that, at a planetary level, the number of women who give birth to babies and placentas thanks to the activity of their own oxytocin system is becoming insignificant.

With our modern interventions in birth as a common element in reproduction, the human oxytocin system seems to have been made useless. When considering our future generations, there is a question about how this might affect us as a species.

The notable difficulties experienced in births nowadays can support the idea that our decrease of natural deliveries could in fact be hindering the innate oxytocin system in generations to come, and thus their abilities to give birth naturally. An indicator of this is the current rates of intervention and c-section deemed necessary, compared to half a century ago. (It has more than quadrupled, and continues to grow…)

As well as difficulties in & around birth, there are other possible implications of a lack of proper utilisation of our human oxytocin system, one example being the capacity to breastfeed. The rates of breastfeeding are currently very low. 

An occurrence triggered by oxytocin release is the milk ejection reflex. (The production and let-down of breast milk for the baby). Considering the average number of babies per woman in modern societies and the very short average duration of breastfeeding (the infant feeding survey of 2010 showed the rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months stayed at 1%), one can assume that the number of milk ejection reflexes in the life of a modern woman is much lower than what it has been in other societies previously. 

Another function of oxytocin which seems to be at risk currently is genital sexuality… did you know that drugs used for correcting sexual dysfunction happen to be one of the most profitable pharmaceutical substances?! 

Also, our capacity to love and have empathy is a factor we must not forget about. A synthesis of 72 studies of the evolution of personality traits of American students between 1979 and 2009 showed that college graduates are 40% less empathetic than those of two or three decades prior. The decline has been progressive, particularly after the year 2000, which again is compatible with a declining oxytocin system. 

To outline an analogy, the rate of caesarean section amongst English bulldogs is 90% and artificial insemination is common practice for the dog breed. Studies have yet to be done on these bulldogs compared to those of the same breed born naturally. The fact is that the current life of bulldogs and their ability to reproduce is almost entirely in the hands of veterinary medicine. I think we ought to be asking why, don’t you?

The purpose of this article was not to bring doom and gloom but to highlight the possible evolutionary impacts on humanity, should we continue down the route we are going with the over-medicalisation of birth. By making this knowledge widespread, or even raising awareness a little bit, we can hope to realise that something here is wrong. We may even begin to have faith in our bodies again as a collective!

By Holly Burley

If you are interested in learning more about the topic, this is a great book that I would recommend! ^^^
Thinking about hiring a doula? See my home page:

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