October 26, 2022
Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators - "The Room of Romance" to Increase Oxytocin
By: Mindy Cockeram, LCCE, CLEC, Author | 2 Comments
This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators' idea - "Room of Romance" comes from occasional contributor Mindy Cockeram. Mindy uses this activity to help families in her classes learn about oxytocin and creating a laboring environment that supports increased levels of this important hormone. To read all the Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators posts for free, follow this link. - Sharon Muza, Community Manager, Connecting the Dots.
Contractions during labor and the let-down that happens when bodyfeeding a baby are both influenced by the hormone oxytocin (‘the Big O’). This activity is used to discuss the impact of oxytocin (versus adrenaline) in labor and how the labor team can make the birth environment ‘oxytocin-friendly.’ Because support people often feel unprepared for labor, this activity assures them that they have more skills than they realize. They just don’t know what they know! In the reviews I receive from class, the “Room of Romance” is often cited as one of the activities ‘I/we enjoyed most.’
When to do this activity
This activity can be done when the educator is sharing about the hormones of labor or when when the class is learning about the emotions that go along with the stages of labor.
How long to allow for this activity
This activity can be accomplished in 15-20 minutes.
- White board or large newsprint/poster paper
- Colored markers
- Jamboard or online meeting room whiteboard
- 2 Breakout rooms
How to conduct the activity
The goal of this activity is to get partners and support people to think about what is needed to create an intimate and relaxing atmosphere where the birthing person feels safe and comfortable to labor and birth. By creating such an environment, the hormone oxytocin is more likely to be released and catecholamines (fear hormones that inhibit oxytocin) are minimized.
To conduct this activity, I invite partners and support people to join me in one part of the room and ask the pregnant people to gather in another area where they work on an appropriate group project I have prepared in advance. I join the support people for the “Room of Romance” activity.
The support persons are given the following scenario: Imagine that the birthing person is going on a date with someone special who they really care about and this date is happening in the “Room of Romance.” If the support person is the partner, they can imagine it is with them. If the support person is a family member or friend, they can imagine what birthing person might want to do. You are tasked with helping to create the most cozy, comfortable, intimate space so that the experience will be enjoyable and positive for the person giving birth. You have $10,000 dollars to spend, so there are lots of possibilities with a budget of this size!
Write “ROOM OF ROMANCE’ at the top of the classroom whiteboard or on the large newsprint. The goal is to make the pregnant person feel so comfortable, relaxed and safe that he/she will allow the oxytocin to flow. The group elects a spokesperson to do the labeling and drawing with the supplied multi-color whiteboard pens - while the group offers/shouts suggestions and ideas. The spokesperson is told they can print and circle words if they don’t feel comfortable drawing them (drawing can be intimidating!) I start them off by drawing a two-seater love seat with the reasoning that close proximity assists in intimacy. After that, they get to work quickly adding items like a fireplace, a blanket, music, candles, rose petals, comfort food and flowers. I’ve had people add kittens or puppies and fish tanks. Once I had a group that knocked out a wall and built a balcony with an ocean view. Many add a squeaky clean bathroom!
After they are done, we regroup as an entire class and I explain the scenario the support people were tasked with. I ask the spokesperson to review the items they put in the room (often with proud and amusing commentary). After that, I then step forward and cross out ROOM OF ROMANCE and write ROOM OF OXYTOCIN instead. We then discuss how each of the items in the room stimulates oxytocin and contributes to relaxation, comfort and safety. We also talk about how some birth environments fuel adrenaline release (cold rooms with bright lights, strange noises and smells, no feeling of safety, etc). Finally we discuss what we could replicate in a home or hospital setting (dimmed lights, warm bath, music, warmth, battery operated diffusers, slow dancing, etc).
How you could modify this activity
If you are teaching online, you could divide the group into two breakout rooms, with partners and support people in one room and pregnant people in another. They would each have to join from different devices (phone, laptop, tablet, desktop). You would join the support group breakout room. The group could use a white board platform like Jamboard or the Zoom whiteboard to illustrate their room design.
The activity demonstrates to the support people that they already know how to create a laboring environment that inherently supports the release of oxytocin. It instills confidence in them that they can do the same when the labor starts. It also encourages pregnant people and partners to feel comfortable laboring at home, given hospital policies and individual medical situations.
About Mindy Cockeram
Mindy Cockeram is a certified Lamaze Educator, Author and IBCLC student working for a large non-profit hospital in Southern California where she’s been teaching childbirth and breastfeeding for eleven years. She was certified initially with the UK's National Childbirth Trust in Wimbledon, England in 2006.
Mindy has authored several childbirth education and lactation books that can be found here. When not teaching, she also guest hosts for Lamaze International podcasts. Originally from Pennsylvania, she resides in Redlands, California with her British husband and two children. Mindy can be reached through her website.
TagsChildbirth education Oxytocin Mindy Cockeram Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators Series: Brilliant Activities For Birth Educators