The Role of Prostaglandins in Labor and Delivery
The Role of Prostaglandins in Labor and Delivery
Pregnancy and the delivery of a child are one of the most complex processes that your body will ever go through.
As you might expect, during labor and delivery, the body produces many different hormones, fats, compounds, and chemicals to help ensure that the birthing process is a success.
One of the most interesting, and most prominent, substances produced by the body during childbirth is a compound known as prostaglandin.
Prostaglandins are compounds produced by the body made up of fats that behave very similarly to hormones. The key difference is that where hormones are produced by specific glands, prostaglandins come from many different tissues in the body.
Prostaglandins are also interesting because they have different effects depending on where on the body, they attach themselves.
Prostaglandins play a big role in labor, delivery, and birth. They greatly affect how mama feels during and after delivery, so it is important to understand them and the role they play in childbirth.
Let's take a closer look at what prostaglandins are and how they affect a mama's labor and delivery.
What are Prostaglandins?
Prostaglandins are a unique compound because they have a hormone-like effect, but they are not hormones. Like hormones, they influence specific reactions in the body when present in certain tissues.
Many different tissues in the body can produce prostaglandins, and different types of prostaglandins have different effects depending on where in the body they attach themselves.
Here are just some of the effects prostaglandins can have:
- Constriction or dilation of blood vessels
- Form platelets into clusters or break them up
- Opening or closing airways
- Contracting or relaxing the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract
- Cause uterine contractions during pregnancy (can occur outside of pregnancy as well)
Prostaglandins have a variety of effects on the body and medical researchers are still figuring out everything they do for our bodies.
How Prostaglandins Effect Your Body During Labor and Delivery
Prostaglandins are active at many points during our lives. But one of their most notable responsibilities is controlling uterine contractions.
During late pregnancy, women develop high numbers of certain types of prostaglandins in their uterine tissues. These prostaglandins include PGE2 and PGE2a. It is thought that these two prostaglandins in particular are responsible for controlling uterine contractions.
These two types of prostaglandins undoubtedly play a significant role in the process of labor and delivery as contractions are part of what helps the baby move down the birth canal during labor.
Additionally, to induce labor, doctors may prescribe prostaglandin medications. These medications attach to the prostaglandin receptors in the uterus and begin the labor process.
Health professionals admit that prostaglandins play a significant role and are highly effective during childbirth and the postpartum period. Prostaglandins are decidedly much more effective than Pitocin, which is the synthetic form of oxytocin.
However, they have yet to figure out how prostaglandins can safely be used as a hemorrhage therapy.
In “The Role of Prostaglandins in Labor and Delivery,” Dr. W. O’Brien says, “Prostaglandins are important mediators of uterine activity. Indeed, a much stronger case can be made for the role of prostaglandins in labor than can be made for oxytocin.”
When a mama consumes her placenta after birth, this can increase her levels of prostaglandins. Modern medicine has not yet been able to replicate these same results. The result is this: a reduction in bleeding from the placental attachment site. This is thought to be because prostaglandins affect the aggregation and disaggregation of platelets in the bloodstream, regulate inflammation, and assist cell growth and regeneration. 
In short, this leads to a quicker postpartum recovery from birth injuries and strains.
 O'Brien, W. “The Role of Prostaglandins in Labor and Delivery.” Clinical Perinatology. Dec 22(4), 2005 pp 973-84.
 Thorburn G D. "The Placenta, Prostaglandins, and Parturition: A Review." Reproductive Fertility and Development. 3(3), 1991, pp 277-94.
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