Pregnant women experience one of the most profound physical and emotional changes through the period of gestation, labor, delivery and birthing. For many, the hormonal fluctuations create the greatest confusion during a pregnancy. Of these hormones, Oxytocin is commonly discussed but rarely, fully, understood by the pregnant woman. For those pregnant women seeking to capture a complete and full understanding of the pregnancy and the associated hormonal changes, understanding the very essential basics of Oxytocin, and it’s impact on the female body, will provide for a firm foundation in the physical and emotional changes to be expected.
Oxytocin, in the general population, is a hormone which is released from the pituitary gland, most often during periods of bonding and positive social interaction. During sexual intercourse, Oxytocin is a bonding hormone which is released, often contributing to a greater connection between adults who experience both a physical and emotional connection. It is through stimulation of specific biological nerve receptors, throughout the body, which promote the release of Oxytocin, by the glands in the brain, into the blood stream.
For women, nerve receptors which promote the release of Oxytocin are commonly in the uterus, breast tissue and even in the heart muscle. When these areas are stimulated, the release of Oxytocin occurs into the blood stream, resulting in a feeling of euphoria often leading to a bonding with the individual or event which created the stimulation.
During pregnancy, a positive stimulation of the breasts can result in release of Oxytocin. It is by this natural release that a woman will, generally, exhibit feelings of euphoria and bonding, a decrease in blood pressure, and, oftentimes, a change in the activity of the uterus. For some women, this stimulation of the uterus or breast may provide for a natural promotion of labor and delivery late into a pregnancy.
Commonly, in pregnant women who seek to induce the labor and delivery of an infant, the use of synthetic Oxytocin, known as Pitocin, is commonly used. Unable to penetrate into the brain, the synthetic form of Oxytocin may not, necessarily, provide for an immediate response in terms of bonding but will, instead, stimulate the breast and uterus nerve receptors, leading to a natural release of a pregnant woman’s Oxytocin hormone, thereby promoting the onset of contractions and delivery in pregnancy.
Upon delivery of an infant, a woman’s body will naturally product Oxytocin, primarily due to the temporary changes in the woman’s cervix. This natural release of the Oxytocin hormone is crucial to the production of breast milk and also for promoting the bonding process between mother and child. In fact, research has shown that women who release a greater level of Oxytocin may exhibit a greater maternal interest in their children than women who do not. For this reason, ensuring proper levels of Oxytocin may be a common blood test performed after delivery in women who are experiencing symptoms of post partum depression.
As with any hormonal change, whether natural or synthetic, understanding the effects of the change is crucial to a woman’s health. For women who are pregnant, or even in women who have recently given birth, Oxytocin levels and stimulation are crucial to creating and maintaining biological health but, more importantly, plays a key role in the psychological connection of a women and a newborn infant.