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Blog Archive

The Report: Part 4

June 2016

With this post, we will change the focus just a little, to discuss surgical deliveries and their effects on fetal and maternal oxytocin.  Once again, I'd highly recommend accessing this report and saving it, as it is chock full of excellent information to which you'll refer time and again.

baby surgical

Buckley discusses the various impacts of a surgical delivery on the oxytocin systems for both mother and baby, stating, "...[effect] will vary with timing (pre or in-labor), with the nature of labor onset [inductions may cause deficits in the physiologic pre-labor preparations for mother and baby], and...the proximity to when physiologic onset of labor would otherwise have occurred." (p 81).

With a surgical delivery, the full processes of labor and birth are interrupted, which impacts the complete activation of the oxytocin system. These impacts include lack of oxytocin uptake by uterine cells, as well as in the breasts and maternal brain. Due to the nature of surgical delivery, prolonged periods of safe skin-to-skin care is often interrupted, A two-page chart shows the various possible scenarios for a surgical delivery and both maternal and fetal impacts. Here are only a small sampling of the various outcomes:

Maternal: oxytocin feedback cycles may not be fully prepared or activated; lack of oxytocin surge at birth; desensitization of oxytocin receptors with high-dose or prolonged pitocin use; reduced or impeded newborn contact during the critical period following delivery; reduced or absent oxytocin pulses expected postpartum; potential higher risk of postpartum depression; increased risk of PTSD; reduced self-esteem; and reduced maternal-infant attachment and bonding.

Infant: reduced neuroprotection with exposure to prolonged or high-dose pitocin; decreased maternal contact during the critical period, increasing infant stress hormonal levels; possible impact on sucking with prolonged or high-dose pitocin; lower systemic levels of oxytocin; lower breastfeeding initiation and duration; higher levels of crying when skin-to-skin with mother compared to father; and potential brain structure and function changes which could impact social functioning later in life.

Part of these studies are in animal models, which can be difficult to tie to human behavior and changes. In my opinion, though, if even a portion of these animal-based studies prove true in humans, the short-and-long-term effects are very scary indeed. Surgical deliveries can save lives, there is no doubt about that. But planned, elective surgical births are a process we should be carefully and thoroughly addressing.



Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA
Professional Development Educator, Step2Education International



Buckley, S. J. (2015). Hormonal physiology of childbearing: Evidence and implications for women, babies, and maternity care. Downloaded from http://childbirthconnection.org/pdfs/CC.NPWF.HPoC.Report.2015.pdf

Alternate Link: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/maternal-health/hormonal-physiology-of-childbearing.pdf


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