I am kind of obsessed with oxytocin. And I’d like for you to be, too. Because you’re about to get a whole helluva lot of it coursing through your body and, to be honest, I’m kind of jealous. I don’t know if I’m envious of the contractions it will cause, but the aftermath– the body flooded with a feeling of love and bonding. I could use some of that.
So what is oxytocin? It’s a hormone that causes labor contractions and breastmilk production. It’s also experienced in high amounts during orgasm, love, happiness, massage, when the lights are low and you feel safe. Who said women’s hormones aren’t fun? Actually, men get oxytocin too– the more time they spend with their newborns the more it flows.
Today NPR ran a piece about the joys of this particular hormone and how it makes us behave. In a nutshell, when we’re happy/in love we make more oxytocin, which makes us happier/more in love…
My usual rant on oxytocin has a lot to do with how great it is, but it’s mostly about how to create an environment for labor where oxytocin is free to flow. You see, this hormone is not a fan of fear. When fear hormones kick in, oxytocin slows down. Of course there are things about labor that are intimidating, even frightening. And oxytocin can handle that normal amount of stress and worry. But excessive fear can make labor more difficult.
Having someone with you continuously who helps you and makes you feel safe is nice. Getting massaged and having dim lights helps. Being with someone you love it great. A lot of women go into labor at night and this is probably because in the safety of your bed and in the dark the oxytocin is more likely to flow. Birth may not be orgasmic (for most) but it’s not unrelated to sex and love. All of these activities do well with some trust and intimacy.
In the comments section of the NPR piece, someone writes that there’s a drink in Mexico made from caffeine, alcohol and oxytocin. OMFG, when can I get my hands on this??? I looked it up and couldn’t find a thing. Maybe there’s a mistake and it’s oxyCONTIN– the addictive painkiller.
On a side note, when researching a little bit around this issue today I found this awesome sex advice site called LOVE SCIENCE. In this entry, Duana C. Welch, Ph.D, explains how oxytocin is at the heart of why women don’t often orgasm from one night stands and men do. I know this part of your life is probably behind you, but it’s fascinating. Check it out!
photo: Daquella Manera/Flickr