Oxytocin – The “love or cuddle hormone.
Oxytocin, commonly referred to as the “love or cuddle hormone,” is one of the two major hormones secreted from the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland. The posterior pituitary is comprised mostly of nerves whose cell bodies lie in the hypothalamic part of the brain. Its hormones are released from the nerve endings directly into blood vessels and then into circulation. Oxytocin is a relatively small peptide hormone, composed of only 9 amino acids. It is synthesized in nerve cells in the hypothalamus in the form of a larger, precursor molecule, which is transported down the nerve fibres through the pituitary stalk to the posterior lobe. The active hormone is cleaved from the precursor during this process. The actions of oxytocin are mediated by specific, high affinity oxytocin receptors. Oxytocin has a
well-recognized role in breastfeeding, and uterine contraction.
In sexual medicine, oxytocin has appeared to play a significant a role in orgasm. Several studies have found increases in plasma oxytocin at orgasm. Plasma oxytocin levels have been found to be significantly elevated around the time of orgasm and are still higher than baseline when measured 5 minutes after arousal. It is possible that oxytocin’s effects on muscle contractibility may facilitate male sperm and female egg transport. Oxytocin levels in women before and after sexual stimulation suggests that oxytocin serves an important role in sexual arousal. One study showed that genital tract stimulation resulted in increased oxytocin immediately after orgasm. Another study reported increases of oxytocin during sexual arousal in response to nipple/areola, genital, and/or genital tract stimulation. A study of men found an increase in plasma oxytocin immediately after orgasm.
Oxytocin is well known to promote feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around a mate. In order to reach full orgasm, it is necessary that brain regions associated with behavioral control, fear and anxiety are deactivated during sexual arousal. Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with social bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. One study confirmed that there was a positive correlation between oxytocin plasma levels and an anxiety scale measuring the adult romantic attachment. This suggests that oxytocin may be important for the inhibition of brain regions that are associated with behavioral control, fear, and anxiety, thus allowing orgasm to occur. As with most of our beneficial hormones, the human body produces less and less oxytocin as we age. Female sexual dysfunction often times is left untreated as it does not manifest itself in an obvious fashion such as an inability to produce an erection. Aging women may feel a lack of intimacy with a partner or find it increasingly difficult to climax. In many cases this is not a product of a “stale” relationship, but more a result of a treatable hormone imbalance. This condition will be exacerbated with the onset of menopause.
CORE Institute is one of a very limited number of medical clinics in the United States to introduce Oxytocin as a part of our bio-identical hormone therapies. Oxytocin is immensely popular in Europe in treating female sexual dysfunction but inexplicably has escaped the imaginations of American physicians. CORE Institute is on the front-lines of implementing oxytocin therapy as a viable option for aging women suffering from anedonia (low libido) and difficulty achieving orgasm. In our practice, oxytocin has played an integral role in the comprehensive approach to women who have presented with the common symptoms of anorgasmia and anhedonia. From practical experience and in our non controlled study, we have found that approximately 87% of our patients that were prescribed oxytocin, have found a significant improvement in the intensity of orgasm. 92% of patients prescribed reported an increase in the sense of calmness and reduction of anxiety as soon as 15 minutes after application. There are multiple methods of application and can be tailored to the individual. While it is obvious the role oxytocin plays in intimacy and sexuality, more research is needed to better understand how to apply it to improve certain symptoms more consistently.