Oxytocin

Hormones are the chemical substances produced by endocrine glands which synchronize biological processes and hence the growth of an individual. Endocrine glands release hormones directly into the bloodstream. Hormones act as mediators, communicating messages across the body, controlling and coordinating the body activities. Different hormones affect the body differently, while some hormones are quickly generated to carry out a biological process at a faster pace, some other processes work over a period of time and hence require doses of these hormones at regular intervals. Hormones are crucial in bringing about the development, growth, digestion, reproduction and so on in an individual. As much as the synthesis of the hormones at the right time is essential, the quantity of hormones released is equally important.

One such important hormone is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is also called the happy hormone produced in the hypothalamus part of the brain. It is involved in childbirth, lactation, empathy, trust, relationship-building and other such related activities. It has positive effects on physical and psychological behaviour and hence serves as a medication to treat depression, anxiety, etc.

Oxytocin from the hypothalamus is transported to be secreted by the pituitary gland. It plays a role in sexual activity and breastfeeding. Oxytocin during labour increases uterine motility resulting in muscular contractions of the uterus. As the cervix widens, oxytocin is released which aids in further contractions.

See also: Hormones

When Is Oxytocin Released?

Oxytocin is released during childbirth and lactation. Oxytocin stimulates the growth of prostaglandins which increases contractions of the muscles of uterus furthermore. Oxytocin is also administered to induce labour, if not initiated naturally. Also, manufactured oxytocin is given for speedy delivery of the placenta and to reduce excess blood flow post childbirth. Oxytocin promotes milk movement into the mammary glands. In males, oxytocin helps in the production of testosterone and aids in the movement of sperm. It also plays a role in social behaviour and various aspects around it. Positive feedback response is used to control the oxytocin levels.

Effects Of Oxytocin

Consumption of oxytocin can have adverse side-effects. Such as:

  • Higher levels of oxytocin have been related to Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Lack of oxytocin can prevent breastfeeding by milk-ejection reflex.
  • Low oxytocin levels have also been linked to autistic disorders(Asperger’s syndrome). It also leads to depressive symptoms
  • Fetal heart rate deceleration, pulmonary oedema, and uterine hyperstimulation are other conditions caused due to oxytocin
  • Vomiting, nausea, jaundice, neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, sinus bradycardia are also caused due to abnormal oxytocin levels
  • Oxytocin imbalance in the body causes seizures in the neurons,
  • Water intoxication as a result of metabolic activities can lead to coma

Functions Of Oxytocin

  • Acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain
  • Stimulates uterine muscle contractions. During childbirth, fetal-ejection reflex produces oxytocin, which causes contractions of muscles of the uterus.
  • Oxytocin plays a role in maternal and sexual behaviour, memory related, yawning, feeding, thermoregulation and cardiovascular regulation.
  • Affects gland growth
  • Stimulates contractility of the epididymis, prostate gland, and seminiferous tubules

Take this quiz

Q.1. Which gland secretes oxytocin?
A.1. It is secreted into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland and produced in the hypothalamus.

Q.2. State one function of oxytocin in females?
A.2. It stimulates milk release in lactating mothers.

Q.3. Name a happy hormone apart from oxytocin.
A.3. Serotonin

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Related Links:

Endocrine Glands And Hormones
Feedback Mechanism Of Hormones

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