What exactly is oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter. It plays an important role in reproduction. The hormone has also been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels when released into certain parts of the brain. In females, the hormone triggers labour and the release of breast milk. In males, it helps move sperm. It may also help people with autism better understand and respond to social cues.
What does this have to do with love?
Couples in the first stages of romantic attachment had significantly higher levels of oxytocin than their unattached counterparts. Oxytocin is tied to more than just love and can be released during sexual activity. Specifically linked to the intensity of orgasms.
Effects of oxytocin’s that enhance relationships include:
- Positive relationship memories.
- Positive communication.
- Processing of bonding cues.
Does the body produce oxytocin naturally?
They are naturally occurring hormones. Produced by the hypothalamus (a small region at the base of your brain) and secreted by the nearby pituitary gland.
What are happy hormones?
Oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin are often referred to as our “happy and social" situations. Intranasal oxytocin is directly linked to communication between romantic partners particularly during arguments.
Oxytocin plays several important roles in motherhood.
The hormone signals the uterus to contract, beginning labor. It helps move the process along by increasing the production of related hormones. After delivery, it helps the uterus return to its previous size.
When a baby latches on its mother’s breast, it triggers a release of oxytocin. This signals the body to let down milk for the baby.
Human and animal studies on the effects of the “love hormone” on the mother-child bond have found that mothers with higher levels are more likely to engage in affectionate parenting behaviour's, including:
- Firstly, frequent checking in on baby.
- Secondly, affectionate touch.
- Thirdly, singing or speaking to baby in certain way.
- Lastly, grooming and bathing behaviour.
Is there similar effects in regards to fatherhood?
The interaction between father and baby led to higher oxytocin levels. This includes directing the baby’s attention toward certain objects and encouraging the baby to explore. So parenthood does stimulate the release of oxytocin in fathers too.
The proposed effect on fidelity
The connection between oxytocin and fidelity may begin with the hormone’s ability to make males view their partners as more attractive than other familiar and unfamiliar females. This hormone may influence males to keep a greater social distance from attractive female strangers.
Does oxytocin have any medical uses?
Yes, it can be used during labour to induce or improve contractions. So oxytocin may help treat autism and other developmental and psychiatric conditions that impair social interaction. However, it can also be a possible treatment for alcohol and substance abuse disorders is ongoing.
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