By Jenny Gillespie
Some of us have read Marcel Proust's Rememberance of Things Past. For the author, the link to his childhood was the smell of baked "Madeleines"....
A pheromone (from Greek phero "to bear" + hormone from Greek "impetus") is a secreted or excreted chemical factor that triggers a social response in members of the same species. Pheromones are chemicals capable of acting outside the body of the secreting individual to impact the behavior of the receiving individual.
Taken from Wikipedia
As a labor support doula and childbirth educator, one of the things I remind my moms and dads about is the importance of relaxation and deep breathing during labor.
Well, I learned something recently while I was at a birth: The importance of pheremones and the magic of smell. This is what happened:
Mom had been in labor on and off for two days and, when we arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night, she had been experiencing contractions every 5-6 minutes or so. The "slow deep" breathing had worked very well for her up until then. When we were still home she rested, ate small meals, took a shower, and sat on the birth ball. She had been inhaling deeply and slowly exhaling, moving and rocking. She was in a groove.
Once she was admitted to Labor and Delivery, her contractions picked up. She grabbed her husband and brought his face close to hers and said: " Breathe with me." As he moved in close, she buried her face in the crook of his neck, and began to breathe in deeply. With every breath she took, I could see the tension releasing. Every time she smelled her husband's skin, she was more at peace, more confident, more relaxed. When each contraction subsided, she would slowly open her eyes, focus on us, and smile. "Wow" she would say, "That felt great!" With each new contraction, she would reach for her husband and hug him tightly, breathing in his smell. Her labor continued, and with each contraction that passed, I would remind her she was one contraction closer to meeting her baby.
There is a rhythm and ritual that women work out during their labor and I witness this with every birth that I attend. With this birth, the simple act of smelling her loved one made this mom feel safe, secure, and in control. It was a beautiful sight.