Oxytocin is generated in the hypothalamus, and is released in the blood by the posterior pituitary gland, depending upon the electrical process of neurons in the hypothalamus.
Almost all vertebrates possess this hormone for reproduction. In women, it is distributed primarily after the distension of the cervix and the vagina during labor, as well as after the activation of the nipples – aiding both birth and breastfeeding respectively. It also plays an active role in men, generating sperm motion and testosterone in the testes.
This substance induces the uterine muscle tissues to contract while boosting the development of prostaglandins, which helps in the production and frequency of birth contractions. Because of this, supplemental forms of the compound may be provided to pregnant women to be able to initiate normal childbirth by stimulating labor and enhancing contractions, to accelerate the delivery of the placenta, and to decrease the chance of serious hemorrhage by tightening the uterus.
In the course of breastfeeding, oxytocin encourages the flow of milk in the breast, enabling it to be excreted by the nipple, and is produced to a lesser degree in the course of orgasm in both sexes. On the other hand, it is also associated with social behavior, bonding, and with the development of trust between individuals. Recent studies show that it is a significant player in interpersonal behavior, and is even recommended for this purpose.
Also called the “love hormone” or the “cuddle chemical”, it works like a chemical messenger in the brain, and has been demonstrated to be crucial in a variety of human behaviors such as sexual arousal, identification, confidence, anxiousness, and even in mother-infant connections.
How is oxytocin managed?
Oxytocin is managed by a positive feedback system where discharge of the hormone leads to an action that induces more of the substance. For instance, when the tightening of the uterus starts during labor, oxytocin is launched into the body, encouraging more contractions and more amounts of it to be distributed. In this process, these cramps boost in strength and frequency.
Similarly, there is also a positive feedback associated with milk-ejection response. When a newborn sucks at the breast of its mother, the stimulation results in the secretion of oxytocin into the bloodstream, which then triggers milk to be delivered into the breast. It is also distributed to the brain to help induce further release.
However, these procedures only happen in a certain time frame. The body ceases the generation of the hormone after the infant is delivered or once the baby finishes feeding.
What happens with too much oxytocin in the body?
The effects of having an excessive amount of oxytocin are currently unknown. Increased levels of the substance, however, might cause problems in urination, and have been connected to benign prostatic hyperplasia – a disorder that influences the prostate in as much as 50% of men, over the age of 50. Nonetheless, this illness might be easy to cure by manipulating oxytocin levels, but more investigations are required before any achievable remedies can be found.
What happens with inadequate levels of oxytocin?
Likewise, it is not currently known if there are any effects of having too low concentrations of oxytocin in the body. Deficiencies of the substance when nursing would stop the milk-ejection reflex and hinder breastfeeding. Low oxytocin levels have also been associated with autism and autistic spectrum disorders, such as the Asperger’s syndrome. It is a vital component of these disorders since one of their symptoms is having bad social performance – something oxytocin should be able to help with.
Insufficiencies in the amount of oxytocin have also shown a relationship with depressive symptoms. More research about the compound as remedy for these issues is still ongoing.