Hormones of Pregnancy Series: For the Love of Oxytocin



Often referred to as the love hormone, oxytocin is at least partially responsible for the continuation of life on Earth. A mammalian neuromodulator hormone, oxytocin facilitates birth, bonding, and breastfeeding. Though it also plays a likely role in community building, sexual interest, anxiety, and social recognition it is best known as the birth hormone because its very existence typically triggers labor.

A synthetic form of oxytocin, known as pitocin is give to millions of American women every year to induce or artificially start labor. The natural method for releasing oxytocin is nipple stimulation, a safer form of labor induction often exercised by women seeking a more natural, less demanding approach. Sometimes synthetic forms of oxytocin are also used to strengthen contractions thereby reducing maternal hemorrhage following complications of birth or to induce breast milk production.

It is primarily because of the prevalence of pitocin use during childbirth over the last few decades that oxytocin has become a commonly known hormone. Despite this association, oxytocin is used in both men and women and over or under production of the substance can lead to issues in both species, with full side effects not entirely known as of yet.

So what sort of events in life spur the release of oxytocin? Maternal bonding, sexual attraction, social connections, and even wound healing seem to be connected to the natural development of oxytocin.