Oxytocin, known popularly as the love hormone, has a much bigger role to play in humans than just love. It acts as a hormone and a neurotransmitter, and it goes by other names such as the hug hormone, the cuddle chemical, the moral molecule, the bliss hormone and the bonding hormone. It also has effects on human behaviour and has female biological reproductive functions too. Oxytocin is specifically an important hormone for women.
“Oxytocin is a peptide produced in the brain that was first recognized for its role in the birth process, and also in nursing,” said Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Research has shed quite a deal of light on the most incredible hormone that the human body produces. Here are some benefits of oxytocin.
Childbirth and breastfeeding
Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland during childbirth. It helps the muscles of the uterus and womb to contract, facilitating childbirth. Sometimes, doctors will even administer the chemical to women in labour; it’s also used to reduce bleeding after delivery. During labour, the cervix and vagina widen, and this triggers the release of oxytocin, leading to further contractions.
Oxytocin is also important when it comes to nurturing. As Medical News Today (MNT) reports, a research paper by obstetric and gynecology specialists Navneet Magon and Sanjay Kalra says that oxytocin is released when a woman’s nipples are stimulated, thus assisting is breastfeeding the baby.
A review by Inga Neumann points to oxytocin’s contribution to relaxation, trust and psychological stability. Another review, as MNT reports, says that it is only one of the many neurochemicals in the cocktail that allows us to change according to emotional situations. It has the capability to tackle with social anxiety and mood disorders. It induces feelings of optimism, confidence and trust. It also helps people to become more sociable thus enabling them to fight with their fears and inhibitions. Oxytocin also helps introverts to open up boost their confidence through social communication. It can also help people to deal with post traumatic stress disorder and autism.
While it is know that sex stimulates the release of oxytocin in both men and women, and the hormone has an effect on arousal and orgasm, the reason for this is not properly understood. Some researchers even assert that the hormone acts to increase uterine motility, helping sperm reach the ovum, and others say that there could be a correlation between oxytocin and the intensity of orgasm.
Emotion influences behaviour, so it’s no surprise that oxytocin also has a say in social behaviours including bonding, aggression, sexual behaviour and trust. Its effects on the brain include reducing the stress response and decreasing anxiety, and this is seen in many animals, not just humans.
Oxytonic’s anti-inflammatory properties make it possible to heal wounds and alleviate pain. According to research, oxytocin can relieve cramping, muscle pain, headaches and migraines. Natural oxytocin is not as effective as synthetics for pain relief.
New research is also being done to see whether oxytocin can be used to treat certain psychological conditions such as post-partum depression, social phobias, psychiatric illnesses and even autism.
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