Despite the laboring, it has been said that there is no “high” quite like the experience of birthing a child. Yes, there’s the excitement of welcoming a baby into the family and for some, solving the gender mystery of the baby that’s been growing in utero for nine months. But there’s also a very real chemical high being experienced due to the release of the hormone, oxytocin.
Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland. Its main function is to facilitate childbirth in women, and in men, oxytocin contracts the vas deferens to push sperm and semen forward for ejection. Oxytocin also affects the production of testosterone in the testes.
Oxytocin production and secretion is controlled by positive feedback, meaning the release of the hormone causes an action that stimulates more of its own release. “For example, when contraction of the uterus starts during childbirth, oxytocin is released. This stimulates more contractions and more oxytocin to be released. In this way, contractions increase in intensity and frequency.”1
During birth, oxytocin creates a warm, fuzzy feeling that also helps the mom bond with the baby. Newer research suggests oxytocin can also lower stress and anxiety, and help regulate emotional responses, including trust, empathy, gazing, positive memories, romantic attachment, and positive communication. Low oxytocin levels have been linked to symptoms of depression, including postpartum depression.
Fortunately, there are some ways to naturally stimulate the production of oxytocin. The simple act of touching produces oxytocin as does exercise, listening to music, singing in a group, massage, cuddling, and hugging. So, give some hugs and spread the love.