There is an interesting  study that reaffirms what our mammal cousins have known instinctively for thousands of years… birth should happen in a dark, comfortable place. It also helps explain why most women go into labor in the middle of the night. And why so many labors can slow down or stall in a hospital setting.

The study’s abstract says this in conclusion: “[Melatonin] synergizes with [oxytocin] to promote [uterine smooth muscle] contractions and to facilitate gap junction activity [in a controlled testing environment]. Such a synergy in [a living human] would promote coordinated and forceful contractions of the late term pregnant uterus necessary for [childbirth]” (Sharkey, Puttaramu, Word and Olcese, “Melatonin Synergizes with Oxytocin to Enhance Contractility of Human Myometrial Smooth Muscle Cells“).

Fascinating stuff. It makes complete sense! Melatonin is the hormone responsible for inducing sleep. Our bodies increase production of melatonin in darkness, and most humans’ melatonin levels peak in the wee hours of the morning. Daylight and artificial light reduce melatonin production.

Now, it gets even more interesting…   meditation increases melatonin production. Some of the most effective coping strategies for labor are akin to meditation–progressive relaxation, visualization, breathing techniques–so it makes sense why they’re so helpful.

So… let’s just be logical here… if melatonin and oxytocin synergize to produce labor contractions, wouldn’t it make sense to do everything possible to keep melatonin levels high during childbirth?

 If you really want to facilitate the birth process, take a lesson from your pet cat.

Turn off the lights!You can control the lights and blinds in your room. Get to a comfortable place. Do whatever you can to relax and get into a sleep-like meditative state. Let your body do what it already knows how to do. When it’s time to leave your dark/comfortable nest, take along some sunglasses and someone who can protect your birthing space from unnecessary distractions and interruptions.  Keep those melatonin levels high!

I love it when science discovers that nature was right all along.