FAQ about oxytocin

Published on 12 August 2023 at 09:20

This article was written in collaboration with Esmarel Gasman of Dalalou Natuurlijk a webshop for natural postpartum products, blog on natural and conscious pregnancy. If you want to read the FAQ in Dutch clic here and scroll all the way down.

What is the function of oxytocin?

Oxytocin has many different functions during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. The function of oxytocin is explained in detail in my previous blog on oxytocin.

Where is oxytocin produced?

Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and stored and released by the pituitary gland. Both the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland are glands located in your head at the bottom of your brain, with the hypothalamus above the pituitary gland.

When is oxytocin released?

Oxytocin is released during loving touch, pleasant physical contact, nipple stimulation, and orgasm. It can also be released, for example, when watching a film that makes you feel good, engaging in positive social interactions, or having pleasant thoughts or thoughts about positive circumstances. Oxytocin is more easily released when someone feels safe, secure, and at ease.

How can you induce oxytocin? or What increases oxytocin?

Our body is capable of producing oxytocin on its own, and only you know where you feel comfortable, relaxed, and at ease. Oxytocin is a shy hormone, so it is good to consider where and with whom you can relax. What conditions help you with this? Can you evoke relaxation within yourself, or do you need something or someone to help you?

Being aware of where and with whom you feel most at ease can also help you make choices regarding where you want to give birth and who you would like to have present (or not).

What are the disadvantages of oxytocin? 

Natural oxytocin has no disadvantages. Synthetic oxytocin, which is given in hospitals to induce contractions, can have disadvantages. See the question on oxytocin damage later on in this article. 

Why not use oxytocin after childbirth?

The birth of the placenta is often actively managed, meaning that it is not left to come out naturally, but the use of synthetic oxytocin, among other methods, is employed to induce its delivery. Sometimes this is necessary to prevent postpartum hemorrhage (more than 1 liter of blood loss), but often healthcare providers use it as a standard procedure. In the latter case, you can consider whether the disadvantages are worth it for you. Possible disadvantages associated with the use of synthetic oxytocin are difficulties in initiating breastfeeding, bonding issues with your baby, and postnatal depression. However, establishing a causal relationship is difficult because the circumstances that lead to the use of oxytocin may also be the cause of these difficulties. You can ask your healthcare provider about their policy and what they consider an acceptable time to wait for the delivery of the placenta. You could also look at the package insert, as synthetic oxytocin, like any medication, comes with one.

What is oxytocin damage?

There is still not enough research to establish a causal relationship between administration and damage, but it is a fact that many women experience similar complaints after receiving synthetic oxytocin. It suppresses the body's natural production of the hormone and therefore disrupts the natural dosing and production. 

Is there a difference in oxytocin production between men and women?

The effect of oxytocin is stronger in women than in men. Testosterone in men weakens the effect of oxytocin, while estrogen in women strengthens it. This is likely related to the care of children, which traditionally falls to women. However, research shows that men who cuddle often are healthier, leaner, and happier.

What is the effect of oxytocin on your recovery?

The effect of oxytocin is not limited to the brain. It also promotes muscle relaxation, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the production of stress hormones in the body, which is beneficial for your immune system. Stress weakens your immune system and slows down the healing process. After the tremendous effort of childbirth, your body can benefit greatly from oxytocin. When you feel secure and loved during the postpartum period, your healing process is accelerated.

This article was written in collaboration with Esmarel Gasman of Dalalou Natuurlijk a webshop for natural postpartum products, blog on natural and conscious pregnancy. 


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