Oxytocin, What does it do?
Oxytocin is called the “hug hormone”. Oxytocin gets released through stimulation of the nerves that are stimulated by intimacy. Touch, light pressure and heat can cause Oxytocin to do its job.
Making love, reading a book with your child on your lap, but also eating can raise the oxytocin level.
It is also one of the pregnancy hormones. It is a versatile hormone. It has a crucial function during birth and when breastfeeding. The hormone also contributes to fertilization and strengthens the bond with your child.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is one of the pregnancy hormones that have a major influence before, during and after your pregnancy. It is being produced by a small part of your brain, the hypothalamus. The hormone plays an important role in stimulating the birth and during breastfeeding. It influences fertilization and promotes adhesion with your child. The name “oxytocin” comes from the Greek word okytokos, which means “quick birth.”
Oxytocin and becoming pregnant?
This hormone is your helping hand even before you get pregnant because it starts with romance and sexual feelings. When a woman has an orgasm, extra Oxytocin is released. This extra Oxytocin helps the sperm cells with their swim through the vagina. It promotes fertilization. The more you can enjoy your orgasm; the more Oxytocin is released. And yes, sperm also contains Oxytocin, which is why sex can help to give birth. (interesting male fact!)😉
Oxytocin during Birth?
Oxytocin is the hormone that causes contractions. During pregnancy, there will be extra Oxytocin produced. However, its effect is then inhibited under the influence of progesterone. Progesterone inhibits the Oxytocin, ensures that you do not give birth too early. At the end of your pregnancy, progesterone decreases and prostaglandin and oxytocin increase. Your uterus also becomes more sensitive to Oxytocin.
During delivery, the pressure of the baby’s head against your cervix causes a significant oxytocin rise. Oxytocin stimulates the muscle tissue of your uterus to regular contractions. You feel this as contractions. During birth, increasing amounts of Oxytocin are excreted in your blood, making the contractions more powerful. The production of Oxytocin occurs in phases. It is not a constant stream. It interacts with another hormone, endorphins. It is a natural painkiller, and endorphins make the uterus more susceptible to Oxytocin.
Because the release of Oxytocin is not a constant flow, this gives you time to relax after a contraction. Your vagina gets the time to stretch so that tearing is hopefully prevented.
Generate Oxytocin and childbirth?
If your birth does not progress because the contractions are too weak or even stop, you can get artificial Oxytocin through an infusion. This way, the labour will carry on. This pregnancy hormone is also used to initiate childbirth. The interaction with endorphins is less with artificial Oxytocin. The endorphins are released less easily.
Oxytocin and breastfeeding?
It also activates the muscles in the breasts to let the milk flow during feeding. The baby itself also stimulates after birth the production of Oxytocin. If the baby gets the chance, he finds the way to the mother’s breast. While the baby seeks the nipple, it massages the breast with the hands. It causes impulses from Oxytocin, which spread throughout the mother’s body.
When your baby is lying on your breast, it stimulates the nerve endings of your nipple and areola by sucking and sucking on your nipple. This sends a signal to your brain, on which the pituitary oxytocin and prolactin will secrete. Prolactin stimulates the production of milk. Oxytocin causes the muscles of the milk ducts and milk glands to contract in your breast. The milk is then pressed through the system of small and large milk channels to the nipple, and your baby can drink. You call this the letdown reflex . This reflex makes the milk channels behind your areola wider so that the milk can flow properly. You can sometimes feel the shoot reflex in your breasts.
Even after delivery, the muscle cells of your uterus contract under the influence of Oxytocin. You can feel this afterwards. Because your baby stimulates the production of Oxytocin by sucking on your breast, you will initially experience afterbirth pains during breastfeeding. Quite annoying, because these after birth pains can be painful! And you can experience it as useless, after all, you already have your miracle.
However, they also have a function: the contraction of your uterus compresses torn blood vessels. Frequent application of your newborn baby is therefore not only pleasant and intimate but also limits your blood loss after giving birth.
Oxytocin: the hug hormone?
After birth, something permanent changes in your hormone balance. Mothers have more Oxytocin than women who are not mothers. It promotes the bond with your baby and ensures good adhesion. Oxytocin also has a positive influence on care tasks, this hormone makes you more sensitive to the sounds of your baby, and you are worried faster. That is why you wake up at night because of your baby and your partner does not. Don’t let them read this 😜
What else does Oxytocin do?
Oxytocin has interesting effects on our behaviour. It is associated with feelings of trust and connectedness. For example, it plays an important role in social interactions and the experience of pleasure as a result. Did you know that you make Oxytocin just by touching each other or looking each other in the eye? Lots of cuddling and skin-on-skin contact! With your baby, but also with other loved ones. It ensures that you associate feelings of happiness, calmness and joy with these kinds of social interactions. Bring it on! 😍
On the other hand, when interacting with a “competing person”, the hormone can evoke more aggressive behaviour.
A large dose of Oxytocin would give increased resistance to stress and addiction, blood pressure reduction and pain relief. For babies, it would play a role in brain development.