The first time I gave birth it was a bit of a shock that I had to give birth again straight away! Yes, that organ that I grew for feeding and giving oxygen to my baby had to come out too! Thankfully giving birth to your placenta is a whole heap easier than giving birth to your baby (what with it not having any bones!) In a lot of cases your placenta will come away easily on it’s own, often helped by the initiation of breastfeeding. When your baby feeds from you for the first time your body releases lots of oxytocin. This causes your uterus to contract which helps your placenta to dislodge and your body release it.
Usually your midwife team will give you about an hour to deliver your placenta naturally. After that they start suggesting that you have the artificial oxytocin injection to help. If you’ve given birth naturally then there are several reasons why you might not want to have the injection at that point:
It’s associated with higher rates of retained placenta
Studies linking the use of artificial oxytocin with issues with breastfeeding
Increased risk of maternal nausea, vomiting, and raised blood pressure
Of course there are medical reasons where you would most definitely want to agree to have the oxytocin injection. The most pressing one being if you are experiencing a post partum haemorrhage (PPH). The oxytocin will cause your blood vessels to contract which will stem the blood flow. In the case of PPH an injection of artificial oxytocin is absolutely the right thing to do. It is responsible for saving the lives of countless mothers across the world.
A natural third stage of labour
Both times I gave birth I had on my birth plan that I wanted a physiological 3rd stage of labour rather than managed (I wanted to birth my placenta naturally without the use of the injection). In my first labour I delivered my placenta naturally within 20 minutes but with my second labour an hour passed and still no placenta. My lovely midwife had read my birth preferences and knew I wanted to do it naturally so suggested we go to my downstairs toilet to try and birth it. When we got there it was quite bright and I knew I would need somewhere dark in order to get my oxytocin flowing so asked if she minded if I turned the light off (not quite sure why I asked as it was my own house!). Even with the lights off after a while nothing was happening but then I remembered something that might help and asked my midwife to fetch it for me.
The midwife brought it to me and within seconds I was having strong surges again! The midwife watched in fascination! She had never seen it being used before. The surges were so strong I had to start using my breathing techniques again. I was starting to get a bit worried as I still hadn’t birthed my placenta but my midwife knew better. She advised me to ‘push into my bum’ and with one gentle squeeze out it popped (into the container laid over my toilet). My midwife was so impressed with the effects she said she was going to buy some to keep in her bag.
So what was this magic elixir? Clary Sage essential oil! Clary sage is said to stimulate your uterine muscles by increasing your oxytocin levels. So far there haven’t been many studies on this so the evidence is mostly anecdotal. My birth story is obviously anecdotal too but for me the effects of it were so instant and strong. It could have been nothing other than the Clary Sage that set my surges off again like that. For the reasons mentioned above I really didn’t want to have the artificial oxytocin injection so am glad that I had this natural alternative.
Clary sage is also (anecdotally) said to be able to help naturally induce labour. We talk about natural forms of induction as well as the process for a medical induction on my course. 1 in 4 births in the UK is an induced birth so I prepare you for all types of birth so that you can face yours with confidence and accept any changes. If you’d like to be well prepared for all stages of your birth, no matter how it happens you can book on to one of my courses here.