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What You Should Know about Epidurals, Pitocin, and Other Birth Interventions: Impact on Breastfeeding and Perinatal Mental Health
In North American, birth interventions, such as epidurals and Pitocin, are very common. For example, epidural rates in some U.S. hospitals are near 90%. While all birth interventions have their appropriate uses, they are often presented parents as having little to no risk. As with any medical procedure, there are risks as well as benefits. In this presentation, we will examine two possible complications associated with birth interventions: breastfeeding cessation and perinatal depression/anxiety. We will examine risks in previous studies and describe the physiological mechanisms that explain why these birth interventions increase the risk of both breastfeeding problems and perinatal depression. Key to understanding these effects are the stress vs. oxytocin systems, which are activated during normal birth in a balanced way and which facilitate breastfeeding and protect maternal mental health. Birth interventions interfere with this normal physiology by inhibiting or causing in imbalance between the nervous information from the uterus to these two brain systems. In some circumstances, the benefits associated with the use of these birth interventions outweighs the risk. However, it is inaccurate to portray these interventions as being risk-free or at least without negative side effects. Strategies that practitioners and mothers can use to upregulate the oxytocin system, and downregulate the stress response, will also be discussed. These include touch and skin-to-skin contact.
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA, is a health psychologist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and the Owner and Editor-in-Chief of Praeclarus Press, a small press specializing in women's health. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is Editor-in-Chief of two peer-reviewed journals: Clinical Lactation and Psychological Trauma. She is Fellow of the American Psychological Association in Health and Trauma Psychology, Past President of the APA Division of Trauma Psychology, and a member of the APA’s Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest. Dr. Kendall-Tackett specializes in women's-health research including breastfeeding, depression, trauma, and health psychology, and has won many awards for her work including the 2017 President’s Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Trauma Psychology from the American Psychological Association’s Division 56. Dr. Kendall-Tackett has authored more than 420 articles or chapters, and has recently completed her 35th book. Her most recent books include: Depression in New Mothers, 3rd Edition (2017, Routledge UK), Women’s Mental Health Across the Lifespan (2017, Routledge US, with Lesia Ruglass), Psychology of Trauma 101 (2015, Springer, with Lesia Ruglass) and The Science of Mother-Infant Sleep (2014, Praeclarus, with Wendy Middlemiss).
Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg, MD, PhD, is a physician and professor of physiology with a research focus on the healing aspects of oxytocin. Her vision is to help creating healthier and happier women by expanding the knowledge about female physiology and by creating medical interventions based on oxytocin.The wish to understand the biology of women emerged, when she had children herself. At that time, she left a promising research career within the field of gastrointestinal physiology in order to study the positive and health promoting effects of oxytocin.
Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg found among other things that oxytocin reduces pain and anxiety, decreases blood pressure and reduces the levels of stress hormones in both sexes. She also found that the speed, by which wounds and other types of physical damage heal, increases and that atrophic (thin) mucosal membranes become rejuvenated. The latter research findings form the basis for patents and clinical studies with the aim to create a pharmaceutical drug for relief of menopausal symptoms.