According to research, Oxytocin is a peptide often used throughout childbirth and is tightly linked to reproductive system functions. The process of childbirth, often known as labor, is a natural process that occurs inside the body. Contractions of the uterus start regularly occurring during the beginning of labor and continue right up until the baby is born.
There is no way to know for certain when the labor will start. Even though it is different for each female, some changes in a female’s body may begin anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks before the beginning of labor. They include an increased need to pee, vaginal discharge, and the onset of uterine contractions. The increased urge to urinate is mostly caused by the baby settling deeper into the pelvis.
Some compare the pain of uterine contractions to menstruation cramps because of how acute they may be [i].
Oxytocin is a strong facilitator peptide because it helps assist labor and after childbirth, namely in nursing, as shown by research. This aspect makes Oxytocin one of the most important hormones in facilitating lactation. According to studies, Oxytocin is an important hormone when it comes to the reproduction of females [ii].
Oxytocin: What Is It?
Oxytocin comes from a Greek term: Oxus means “quick,” and tokos means “childbirth.” Together, these two words form the English word “Oxytocin.”
The peptide in question is a naturally occurring cyclic peptide hormone with nine amino acids making up its structure. The pituitary gland is responsible for its production, and its primary function is that of a neurotransmitter in the brain [iii].
The naturally occurring form of the peptide is termed recombinant Oxytocin, and the synthesized version of the peptide, which goes by the name Recombinant Oxytocin, is also a cyclic nonapeptide (iv).
When was the hormone Oxytocin first identified?
A British pharmacologist identified Oxytocin as having qualities that caused uterine contractions in 1906 [v]. Afterward, additional scientists identified Oxytocin’s milk-ejecting capabilities between 1910 and 1911. [vi]
Since the first isolation of Oxytocin in 1920 and the subsequent discovery of the peptide’s structure in the 1950s, several research investigations have been carried out to investigate the peptide’s capabilities and features in more depth.
What exactly is the mechanism that makes it work?
Oxytocin is a peptide hormone that occurs naturally in the body, as was explained before. The hypothalamus produces Oxytocin, secreted and stored in the posterior pituitary gland. Finally, Oxytocin is released into the body in response to hormonal stimuli, according to research findings. [vii]
As per study results, Oxytocin, unlike other hormones, functions by a process known as positive feedback. This indicates that the first release of the hormone peptide causes a subsequent release of the peptide in larger quantities and with greater intensity [vii].
Oxytocin comes in natural and artificial forms, but they operate via the same mechanism and have the same effect on a female’s reproductive system, researchers suggest.
Contractions of the Uterus
Oxytocin, after it has been absorbed into the body, attaches to the G-protein coupled receptors in the uterine membrane, which causes an increase in the amount of calcium located within the cells, according to research. Uterine contractions are the result of calcium release from the uterus. Using a positive feedback loop after the uterine contractions have begun encourages the increased release of Oxytocin, which in turn leads to an increase in both the frequency and strength of the contractions [vii].
Capabilities Regarding Breastfeeding
Studies show that Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for the contraction of myoepithelial cells, which may be found in the alveolar ducts of female breasts. Milk is expelled when these contractions encourage milk ejection from the alveolar ducts into the bigger sinuses, which ultimately results in milk being expelled. The positive feedback mechanism is also operational, and early milk ejection induces further peptide release and continuing milk release [vii].
What are the Benefits of Oxytocin, and How Does It Work?
As mentioned previously, Oxytocin’s two primary benefits are that it helps the female reproductive system by facilitating (a) uterine contractions during birth and (b) nursing following delivery. According to clinical results, both of these processes benefit the baby.
Other researched benefits of the peptide include the following:
The consequences of vasodilation
Elevated blood flow in the cerebral, coronary, and renal regions
Are There Any Side Effects Along with Oxytocin Use?
Oxytocin administration is associated with the following seven frequent adverse effects in research papers:
Symptoms include redness and irritation
A ratcheting up of the contractions
Difficulty in taking a breath
Unnatural or abnormal bleeding [viii]
The following seven things are considered to be serious adverse effects of the peptide, according to research results:
The uneven and erratic beating of the heart
High blood pressure
A hazy vision
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[i] Signs of Labor. https://www.webmd.com/baby/labor-signs#1
[ii] Magon, N., & Kalra, S. (2011). The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15 Suppl 3(Suppl3), S156–S161. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.84851
[iii] National Center for Biotechnology Information. “PubChem Compound Summary for CID 439302, Oxytocin” PubChem, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Oxytocin
[iv] Recombinant Oxytocin (Code C724). https://ncit.nci.nih.gov/ncitbrowser/ConceptReport.jsp?dictionary=NCI_Thesaurus&ns=NCI_Thesaurus&code=C724
[v] Dale, H H. “On some physiological actions of ergot.” The Journal of physiology vol. 34,3 (1906): 163-206. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1465771/
[vi] The action of animal extracts on milk secretion. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.1911.0042
[vii] Osilla EV, Sharma S. Oxytocin. [Updated 2021 Jul 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507848/
[viii] Oxytocin Injection. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682685.html