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 click here.

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 is Oxytocin given after birth?

Synthetic oxytocin is given to a woman after birth to prevent excessive bleeding. It depends on the healthcare provider and the protocol if it is routinely given or after a certain amount of time or blood loss. Globally, the leading cause of maternal death is postpartum haemorrhage (more than 1 litre of blood loss). PPH occurs when the baby is born and the placenta has to follow. When birth or the period when the placenta has to be born is interrupted, stressful, or interfered with, the physiological process of contractions and birthing the placenta is disturbed. This can be a cause of ineffective uterine contractions and therefore can cause postpartum haemorrhage. Another reason for ongoing bleeding can be when something (for instance, a full bladder, blood clot, or partially detached placenta) is in the way and the uterus cannot contract properly. In an undisturbed physiological birth, providing synthetic is most of the time not necessary since your body will take care of the right amount of oxytocin to continue this whole process.

If you don´t want the synthetic oxytocin after birth put it in your birth plan!

There are quite a few hospitals in Malaga and Andalusia that routinely give the synthetic oxytocin. So if you don´t want this it is smart to put it on your birth preference sheet or in your birth plan. 

Don´t have one yet? Check out these freebies to get you started!

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 haemorrhage (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.

Want to share your thoughts on oxytocin? Please use the comment box below! I would love to hear what you think!

These pregnancy, birth and postpartum blog stories you might also like:

Want to delve into the material yourself? Good idea! Here are some of my sources

Dr Rachel Reed, Midwife thinking, on actively managed placental birth

Cleveland Clinic Health Articles Oxytocin

Prevost, M. et al. (2014) "Oxytocin in Pregnancy and the Postpartum: Relations to Labor and Its Management", Frontiers in Public Health, 2. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00001.

2021; 12: 742236, Published online 2021 Oct 27. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2021.742236 PMCID: PMC8578887 PMID: 34777247

Add comment


There are no comments yet.