Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing, an Essential Framework for Maternal-Newborn Nursing

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. Mar-Apr 2016;45(2):264-75; quiz e3-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jogn.2015.12.006. Epub 2016 Jan 27.


Knowledge of the hormonal physiology of childbearing is foundational for all who care for childbearing women and newborns. When promoted, supported, and protected, innate, hormonally driven processes optimize labor and birth, maternal and newborn transitions, breastfeeding, and mother-infant attachment. Many common perinatal interventions can interfere with or limit hormonal processes and have other unintended effects. Such interventions should only be used when clearly indicated. High-quality care incorporates salutogenic nursing practices that support physiologic processes and maternal-newborn health.

Keywords: beta-endorphins; hormonal physiology; maternal–newborn safety; onset of labor; oxytocin; perinatal interventions; precautionary principle; prolactin; stress hormones.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Gonadal Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Relations / physiology*
  • Neonatal Nursing* / methods
  • Neonatal Nursing* / standards
  • Parturition* / drug effects
  • Parturition* / physiology
  • Perinatal Care / methods
  • Perinatal Care / standards
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / etiology
  • Pregnancy Complications* / metabolism
  • Pregnancy Complications* / nursing
  • Pregnancy Complications* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Maintenance* / drug effects
  • Pregnancy Maintenance* / physiology
  • Quality Improvement
  • Reproductive Control Agents / pharmacology*


  • Gonadal Hormones
  • Reproductive Control Agents