Pregnancy A-Z Series
Many articles and blogs have been devoted to oxytocin and the role it plays in pregnancy and birth, such as causing uterine contractions and playing a role in bonding with your baby. Rather than repeat well articulated material I decided to compile some interesting and fun facts about oxytocin.
- Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and was “discovered” in 1906 by Sir Henry Dale, who found a pituitary extract stimulated uterine contractions in cats.
- In the 1950’s Vincent du Vigneaud explained the chemical structure of oxytocin and shortly after the oxytocin was synthesized, or produced chemically.
- Synthetic oxytocin, commonly known as Pitocin, does not cross the blood brain barrier. This may explain why some people experience induction or augmentation with synthetic oxytocin as different than with self produced oxytocin.
- Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and transported to the posterior pituitary
- Basal levels of oxytocin increase 3-4 fold during pregnancy.
- Oxytocin pulses increase in frequency, duration, and amplitude during late pregnancy throughout labor. The oxytocin peaks, however, did not correlate with individual contractions. There is more at play in labor than simply oxytocin.
- During the studies that were done, oxytocin was also found in the cerebral spinal fluid, meaning that the oxytocin is also released into the brain as well as into the blood circulation.
- If you were worried about synthetic oxytocin not crossing into the brain, you will be relieved to know that it seems natural oxytocin levels do increase to nearly normal levels after infusion of synthetic oxytocin up to 10 mu/min and were very similar to physiologic labor.
- Oxytocin pulses continue after the baby is born to help the placenta be birthed, prevent bleeding, and even to warm the chest for skin to skin time!
Oxytocin is an amazing hormone and plays a large role in bonding, relaxation, our reward center, orgasms, lowering anxiety, promoting pain relief and more. Oxytocin also plays a crucial role in our reproductive system and labor and birth. There is a lot we don’t know yet about labor, such as what prompts it to begin on its own. We do know that no matter how a baby is born, unmedicated, via a surgical cesarean, augmented with synthetic oxytocin — that our body already has a high level of oxytocin prepared for us to bond with and love our babies. I hope you enjoyed reading a few facts about oxytocin, I enjoyed compiling them. Source
Not intended as medical advice. All Rights Reserved, Kimberly Sebeck Knoxville Doula