I had a great today attending the study day by Kersten Uvnas Moberg on the Oxytocin factor. Kerstin, also known as the “mother of oxytocin” is the world’s leading expert and researcher on the powerful hormone oxytocin. The day was organised by Kikki Hansard and attracted 70 doulas, midwives, hypnotherapists and other birth related professionals.
Kerstin took us through a whole host of subjects relating to oxytocin including the chemical properties, the physiological functions of oxytocin, the research, the impact on breastfeeding, bonding and physical well being of mother, other areas of research using the hormone including autism and substance abuse and ended with some very major questions about the challenges that we will face if birth continues to travel down the path of routine medicalisation, increased augmentation of labour, increased Caesarean sections and decreased breastfeeding.
All in all it was a very interesting and thought provoking day. Here are the top 20 interesting facts about oxytocin which I learnt today
1. It was the first hormone to be isolated and synthesised
2. Because it is predominantly a female hormone, little research was done into its properties
3. It is a very “old” hormone in that it has been around in animals long before mammals came to be
4. Life’s reproductive system revolves around oxytocin
5. Oxytocin is a hormone but is also a neurotransmitter (ie is produced in nerve cells all over the body)
6. Epidurals block the release of oxytocin as they block the transmission up the spinal cord
7. Oxytocin is released during breastfeeding which increases the activity in the gastrointestinal tract so making the mother use calories more efficiently
8. Oxytocin lasts in the body for about 3 mins but the effects can last up to 3 hours
9. The more oxytocin is released in the body, the more accumulative the effect, so long-term breastfeeding mothers benefit for the effects for years later!
10. Oxytocin increases the pain threshold, increases social interaction and increases curiosity
11. Oxytocin contributes to the healing of tissues!
12. Eating good food produces oxytocin
13. Men also produce and benefit from oxytocin
14. Oxytocin can lead people to being very trusting which may have some drawbacks
15. Rhythmical stroking of the skin (at about 40 beats per minute) releases oxytocin – 5 mins of stroking leads to a reduction in blood pressure for up to 3 hours
16. Oxytocin blocks out cortisol and so decreases stress and anxiety in mothers
17. Babies pummelling the breast is a vital process to release oxytocin
18. Babies who have skin-to-skin (ie release oxytocin in themselves) cry less
19. Oxytocin is released in pulses of about 90 seconds
20. Hugging stimulates the cells to produce oxytocin which is why hugging feels so good!
A big thanks to Kerstin, Kikki and Nicola for organising the event (and thanks for the lovely chilli con carne and wine in the evening!)