Hormone Expert Marla Explains Oxytocin

Marla AhlgrimmOxytocin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in childbirth and lactation. Here, HRT expert Marla Ahlgrimm touches on a few key points regarding this reproductive hormone.

Q: What does oxytocin do?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Produced by the hypothalamus, oxytocin is secreted by the pituitary gland during childbirth. It is the hormone responsible for signaling the womb to begin having contractions during labor. When oxytocin is released, the uterine muscles contract and prostaglandin production is increased, moving labor along and intensifying contractions.

Q: How does oxytocin affect a woman’s ability to breastfeed?

Marla Ahlgrimm: After giving birth, a woman’s body releases oxytocin, which helps during lactation. When an infant suckles the mother’s breast, oxytocin is secreted, which stimulates the let-down reflex. Concurrently, oxytocin is released into the brain, which encourages additional oxytocin production.

Q: Do men secrete oxytocin?

Marla Ahlgrimm: In men, oxytocin helps facilitate the movement of sperm and it’s also suspected to play a part in testosterone production in the testes. Scientists have recently determined that oxytocin plays a role in bond formation between a mother and child. Oxytocin may also affect stress and addictive tendencies in both sexes. Additionally, oxytocin works as a chemical messenger that controls some social interactions and human behavior.

Q: What issues are associated with oxytocin production?

Marla Ahlgrimm: There are very few negative implications related to high or low oxytocin levels. In men, high oxytocin may trigger an enlarged prostate, which can cause urinary tract discomfort. In women, insufficient oxytocin can prevent milk letdown, making breastfeeding difficult.  Inadequate oxytocin has additionally been linked to depressive disorders, though it is unclear whether supplementing with this hormone is an effective treatment for depression.

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