Oxytocin

Content Written By: Irwin Goldstein, MD

Oxytocin is both a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland and also a brain neurotransmitter. 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 a role in orgasm. Several studies have found increases in plasma oxytocin at orgasm. Plasma oxytocin levels are notably increased around the time of orgasm and are still higher than baseline when measured 5 minutes after self-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. Another study of men found an increase in plasma oxytocin immediately after orgasm.

Oxytocin evokes 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; which allows individuals to let go of fear and anxiety 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.

Oxytocin can be delivered as a lozenge in doses taken 1 hour before sexual activity. More research is needed

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