Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by a specific part of the hypothalamus, from there stored in the posterior pituitary gland, from where it is subsequently released to carry out its functions in the human body. Even though oxytocin is synthesized by both sexes, it is much more important for the functioning of the female body. As such, women have more receptors for this hormone in the brain.
One of the main functions of the hormone oxytocin is to stimulate the rhythmic contractions of the uterus during childbirth.
Functions of Oxytocin
The primary factor for increased secretion of oxytocin is the beginning of uterine growth. Synthetic oxytocin is very frequently applied during the actual birth process in hospitals.
It is applied through an intramuscular or vein injection, with the goal of stimulating labor. The need for application of synthetic oxytocin during birth is determined by the doctor leading the delivery.
Oxytocin has an immediate effect on the smooth muscles of the uterus, increasing the duration and power of the contractions. As the cervix widens, so too does sensitivity to this hormone. The effects of oxytocin continue after the actual birth, helping to restore the uterus and provoke lactation.
An important condition for applying synthetic oxytocin with the goal of easing labor is the readiness of the cervix itself. The musculature needs to be sufficiently stretchy. The hormone's action is effective when the cervix stretches a minimum of 2 1/2″ (6 cm).
Dosage of synthetic oxytocin needs to be consistent with the overall condition of the mother. Oxytocin is applied when the first stage of childbirth continues for an extended time and there's no established rhythm of uterine contractions.
Oxytocin is also applied in cases where the amniotic fluid flows out and the mother is still not in active labor 4 hours later.
Oxytocin can also be used in labor that's already underway and there's no visible cervical dilation or it dilates less than 1/2″ (1 cm) per hour. Oxytocin is used in cases where contractions weaken or stop altogether.
Another use of oxytocin is as a prophylactic and treatment of uterine bleeding and stimulating lactation.
Let's also note the functions of oxytocin in men. In eases the transportation of semen in the reproductive system and has an overall effect on male sexual behavior. Experts believe that the emotional attachment of representatives of the stronger sex is linked to this particular hormone.
Oxytocin receptors are located in the kidneys, skeletal and cardiovascular systems, muscles and pancreas. This means that the effects of oxytocin are not limited only to the reproductive system in men.
An important fact to keep in mind for those who actively exercise is that this hormone stimulates the absorption of glucose in muscle cells, in turn helping to regenerate the body after intense workouts.
By lowering cortisol levels in the body, oxytocin can help alleviate symptoms of stress and fatigue, as well as increase the working capacity of the brain and muscles.
Dangers of Oxytocin
Use of oxytocin is completely in all cases where normal childbirth is impossible and there's indications that a C-section may need to be performed.
The synthetic hormone should also not be used in cases of Rhesus incompatibility between fetus and mother; partial placental abruption and the onset of premature birth; cervical cancer; kidney failure in the mother; intrauterine growth restriction; discrepancies between the size of the baby's head and mother's pelvis.
If signs of intrauterine hypoxia are found, oxytocin needs to be applied exceptionally carefully and, if possible, a different method for inducing labor should be chosen.
Oxytocin needs to be applied with caution in multiple pregnancies as well, because the risk of hypoxia is much greater than in singleton pregnancies.
Experts recommend for couples to take extra caution when it comes to sex during the final months of pregnancy, as levels of natural oxytocin rise after sex, which can cause contractions and premature birth. But because of this, sex is considered one of the natural ways to induce pregnancy toward the end of the 3rd trimester.See more