May 29, 2019
Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - A Toast to the Hormones of Labor and Birth
By: Melissa Cook, CD(DONA), CLC, LCCE | 0 Comments
This month's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators' activity comes from Melissa Cook, CD(DONA), CLC, LCCE. Melissa has a real gift for creating and presenting materials to use in class that really "pop". The hormones of labor are often confusing, but this classic science demonstration really offers a unique and memorable way to remember that the body is primed to labor and birth (and parent) with the support of the "cocktail" produced by the laboring person. If you are interested in viewing all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators' ideas, follow this link. - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Connecting the Dots.
Understanding the role of hormones in labor and birth can be challenging for many class participants. This demonstration provides a fun visual explanation that supports the evidence shared through discussion and by reading Angela’s Story in the Pathway to a Healthy Birth referenced below in the materials section. Pathways to a Healthy Birth describes the hormonal pathways of labor, birth, and breastfeeding. I learned the concept of using bottles of liquid poured into a cocktail from Wendy Trees Shiffer in her Lamaze Childbirth Educator seminar. I experimented with the bottles of liquid to create a chemical reaction to demonstrate how birth hormones work together to facilitate labor and birth.
- The spinning circle graphic shown here is displayed on the classroom screen during this demonstration. Download from the link at the bottom of the post.
- Angela's Story is found on the National Partnership for Women & Family's Childbirth Connection website. The story is found in the consumer pamphlet available here.
- Five glass bottles of your choice, each labeled as follows:
- Prostaglandin & increased Estrogen
- Food coloring
- Distilled vinegar
- Baking soda
- A large cocktail glass
- A tray to catch the overflow
I mix the bottles as follows; (You will adjust amounts based upon the size of your bottles. Experiment and have fun!)
- Prostaglandin & increased Estrogen: Mostly water, and a small amount of distilled vinegar (about ¼ of the bottle).
- Prolactin: Mostly water, food coloring, and a small amount of baking soda (tbsp)
- Oxytocin: Distilled vinegar and a different color food coloring.
- Beta-Endorphins: Water and a third color food coloring.
- Catecholamines: Baking soda
When I introduce this activity
I conduct this demonstration after the class has learned the stages and phases of labor and birth. We discuss how labor begins and the work the body has done in advance of the onset of labor. We read the Childbirth Connection’s Pathway to a Healthy Birth handout and discuss Angela’s story. I explain that this demonstration will help us to understand how hormones facilitate change as labor progresses. How we may go from a feeling of “birth fog” to feeling awakened and strong enough to give birth.
How to conduct this activity
Make sure your cocktail glass is on a tray or plate to catch overflow caused by the chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar. Describe the role of prostaglandin & estrogen as you pour an amount from the prostaglandin/estrogen bottle into the glass. Move to prolactin and discuss the effects of prolactin (the mothering hormone) as you pour "prolactin" into the glass. Expect a small fizz with this combination.
Move on to oxytocin, pouring a small amount of oxytocin, followed by beta-endorphins and alternate between these two hormones pouring small amounts each time. Talk about how oxytocin signals the brain to produce beta-endorphins and remind the class that synthetic hormones do not provide this benefit. When your glass is nearly full (just when the laboring person feels like they just can’t take any more of the labor), the body reaches full dilation as both the parent (and baby) receive a generous dose of catecholamines. Dump a generous amount from the catecholamine bottle into the cocktail glass liquid and you will have a bubbling over of the cocktail. A great way to demonstrate how hormones play a big role in providing that “urge to push”.
By the end of this demonstration, students will have learned;
- The role birth hormones play in preparing for labor
- How a blend of hormones bring about the onset of labor
- How the progression of labor is facilitated by our own hormones
- How hormones provide calming and mild relief of labor sensations
- How a hormone we worked to avoid in the beginning provides much-needed strength and determination during the pushing stage.
- Finally, we discuss how hormones often have more than one job in our body and how birth hormones support bonding, breastfeeding, and healing.
I have received great feedback on this demonstration, especially from birth partners. Students have communicated that it really gave them a better understanding of how our hormones work together to support labor and birth. It is good to practice this a few times to feel confident during the activity. Do you think you might try this in a childbirth class? Let us know how it goes in the comments below.B
About Melissa Cook
Melissa Cook, CD(DONA), CLC, LCCE has served growing families in the greater Philadelphia area for the past five years and is the owner of Mother Me. Melissa has worked in a variety of birth settings including multiple hospitals and birth centers. Melissa is currently teaching Lamaze classes in a class series offered as Lamaze Classes at Mother Me. She has supported The Maternity Care Coalition as a community doula in Philadelphia and enjoys providing physical, emotional and educational support to mothers of all backgrounds through labor, birth and early parenting.
TagsChildbirth education Childbirth Connection Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Hormones Of Labor Series: Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Melissa Cook