A student in my childbirth class yesterday told us that she had recently taken a long flight at around 34+ weeks. She asked her doctor what she should do if she starts getting premature labor contractions. He said, “start drinking hard liquor and keep drinking until the contractions stop.”
All eyes in the classroom turned to me. What?! Is this guy for real?
I’ve never heard this particular tip, but it makes a certain amount of sense. Here’s why:
Alcohol consumption inhibits oxytocin, the labor hormone that causes contractions.
Oxytocin is also known as the cuddle hormone as it’s released during orgasm, massage, in the dark and when a woman is breastfeeding. But if you drink alcohol it won’t flow as readily. (This explains why it can be harder to orgasm if you’re drunk.) Breastfeeding experts recommend avoiding lots of alcohol while nursing not just because some of it gets to the baby, but because it inhibits oxytocin-production and therefore can actually reduce mom’s milk production.
A woman who goes into early labor at night– but really should try to get some sleep so that she’s well rested for the hard part– is sometimes advised by her doctor or midwife to have a glass of wine. The alcohol might keep prolong the early labor so that mom can rest.
Exposing a term baby to some level of alcohol could arguably be the safer course than giving birth in-flight with an untrained air hostess. The fact is, this kind of thing is rarely necessary. If it’s a flight to Australia and you go into precipitous labor over the Pacific with 11 hours to go… OK, maybe a G&T is a good idea. But a flight from Chicago to Boston? Also be reassured that should you find yourself mid-air and contracting, you can just call your care-provider from the plane for customized in-flight advice.