Oxytocin released during pregnancy, labour, birth and beyond helps you to be a great mum in many ways. Understand how it works and you can relax – your body’s got it sorted!
Our expert, Dr Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg, is a professor of physiology and a leading expert on oxytocin, having studied the hormone and its effects for over 30 years.
What is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a powerful hormone released by the pituitary gland that helps your uterus contract during labour and helps the ejection of milk in the breasts. It's nicknamed the 'love hormone' as it influences social interaction and sexual reproduction and high levels have been linked from everything to maternal attachment, generosity and orgasms! Oxytocin, along with high levels of oestrogen, causes the release of a group of hormones, known as prostaglandins, which may play a role in the ripening of the cervix.
10 must-read facts about oxytocin:
1) It creates an energy store
At the beginning of your pregnancy, your oxytocin levels immediately start to rise. This increase alters metabolism, and means that pregnant women tend to put on weight in the first trimester.
This provides an energy store which can be used later when the foetus is growing faster and needs more calories.
9) Stimulates milk flow
It’s oxytocin that stimulates your milk to flow when you’re breastfeeding.
The hormone directly causes the muscles that are responsible for letting down your milk to contract.
As you breastfeed, oxytocin levels go up in small spikes, similar to the end of labour. The oxytocin release is tremendous, stimulating the bond between you as well as giving more milk.
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