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Happy Babies

Okay, this video is not making a totally random appearance in my blog:

1. Adorable babies = little oxytocin spurt in your brain, probably even from video

2. These are some confident, happy babies. I would love to know what percent of them were birth naturally and breastfed. This is how babies are supposed to be, people!

Your Neurochemical Dating Timeline

Your dating, romance and love timeline may be governed by your brain chemicals. Nature seems to have designed us to move through three stages of love; lust/attraction, romance and committed love. And each stage is governed by a different neurochemical mix.

Lust and attraction is a powerful cocktail of testosterone, which fires sexual desire in women as well as men, and dopamine, the chemical of seeking and reward. If your lust and attraction are returned, you quickly move into romance, an excited and focused state in which your brain's reward centers are flooded with dopamine. This is the state we call "in love," and it's very different from the final stage, committed love, or true love, when oxytocin, the neurochemical of bonding takes over. Once the oxytocin bond grows strong, couples can stay together and weather the inevitable bumps in the road.

Nature's design seems to be that we stay in the first stage until we find an appropriate mate. When we do, we move into romance, the highly rewarding and exciting stage which typically lasts about two years -- long enough for the woman to get pregnant and have her baby. By that time, the oxytocin bond has grown strong, so the exciting neurochemicals die down, allowing the couple to concentrate on raising baby, instead of making goo-goo eyes at each other.

Now, everyone is different. Some women fall almost instantly into an oxytocin drunk, just knowing after a couple of kisses that he's the one, while others can never quite make it past romance. When the sparks go out, they move on.

When you understand the different phases, and how each of them can cloud your judgment, it's harder to get hornswaggled into a bad relationship.

Make Breastfeeding Part of Healthcare Reform

One very simple thing could reduce healthcare costs while making generations of healthier -- and smarter -- people: Increasing education and support for breastfeeding.

Deborah Pascali-Bonaro, director of the amazing documentary Orgasmic Birth, posted info from Making Pregnancy Safer, a World Health Organization initiative. The bottom line:

A 2001 study from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that the US could save $3.6 billion a year if breastfeeding rates rose to the levels recommended by the federal government, based on an assessment of just a small fraction of disease in infants. If this analysis were adjusted using the more accurate breastfeeding data now available, adjusted for inflation and raised to the medically recommended rates, the true figure would be over $14 billion per year. If the costs of childhood obesity, maternal diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease were factored in, the true cost would likely be several times that figure.

Documented health benefits for mothers as well, many of which are likely the result of an increase in oxytocin flowing through the veins, include reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes post-menopause for breastfeeding moms.

The Oxytocin Clock

Mother Mouse and Baby
Originally uploaded by danedude.

Bora Zivkovic, who blogs as Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock, has a very interesting and informative post about a study of the relationship between oxytocin and the timing of labor and birth in mice.

Coturnix ponders the implications of Oxytocin in the Circadian Timing of Birth by Jeffrey Roizen, Christina E. Luedke, Erik D. Herzog and Louis J. Muglia. In the study at Washington University School of Medicine, the researchers compared onset of labor and birth of young in normal (wild-type) mice and oxytocin-deficient mice. When they shifted the light cycle in the lab, the oxytocin-deficient mice gave birth at random times, while there was no change in when the normal mice gave birth.

Coturnix kindly explains:

In wildtype mice, those in which oxytocin is present, the births were clustered around a single time of day. However, the phase-shifting of the light cycle did not phase-shift the timing of birth! And it also did not shift the timing of oxytocin release either. This means that the circadian rhythm of oxytocin release is driven by a pacemaker that is separate and independent from the pacemaker governing the locomotor activity. The location of this pacemaker is yet to be elucidated, but it could be a subset of cell in the SCN, or a yet-unknown clock located in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, or in the posterior pituitary itself. Anyway, the results support the hypothesis that oxytocin is in some way involved in the timing of birth.

Of course, in hospital births of humans, oxytocin is used very directly to shift the onset of labor and actual childbirth.

Getting Rid of Hospital Bed Better for Birth

Removing the hospital bed from rooms where women give birth reduced the use of artificial oxytocin by 28 percent in a University of Toronto study.

Just like Chekhov's gun on the wall, it seems if there's a hospital bed pretty much filling the room, the laboring woman is much more likely to stay in it -- and her doctors and nurses are also likely to focus their efforts there, according to the article in Eureka Alert.

In the study led by Ellen Hodnett and published in Birth, researchers replaced the hospital bed with a standard double bed with large, comfortable cushions. They dimmed the lights and played soothing ambient sounds, such as ocean waves.

According to the article,

"The intent was to allow the women the ability to move about freely during their labour, to permit close contact with their support people, and to promote feelings of calm and confidence," says Hodnett.

The room's furnishings encouraged women to get comfortable, instead of just lying on their backs -- considered by many to be the absolute worst position in which to give birth. In the alternative rooms, more than 65 percent of women who used them said they spent less than half the labor period in the bed, compared to 13 percent of women in standard rooms.