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Oxytocin: The Love Hormone

One of the simplest ways to boost your mood is hugging your kids, your pets, or your life partner. Skin-to-skin contact increases overall sense of wellness. Starting with infants, skin-to-skin contact with newborns produces the hormone called oxytocin. Harvard Health (2023) states, “[Oxytocin’s] main function is to facilitate childbirth, which is one of the reasons it is called the "love drug" or "love hormone." Oxytocin, like endorphins or serotonin is a type of hormone in your body that promotes positive feelings”.

Ways to Boost Oxytocin for Babies & Adults Most moms (and some dads) know that when a baby is placed on the adult’s chest, maximizing skin to skin contact, a sense of well-being washes over both baby and mom or dad. The medical community calls this Kangaroo Care. Kangaroo care boosts oxytocin levels in both babies and mom or dad.

The Cleveland Clinic (2023) determined the potential benefits of Kangaroo Care are:

· Stabilize your baby’s heart rate.

· Improve your baby’s breathing pattern and make their breathing more regular.

· Support healthy sleep, including more quiet sleep and longer cycles.

· Encourage your baby’s growth.

· Lower your baby’s risk of hypothermia, serious infections, or death.

· Bond with your baby.

· Establish breastfeeding and increase your milk supply.

· Feel confident in your ability to care for your baby and respond to their needs.

Other ways to boost oxytocin involves having a sense of community. Singing with a group or being in an ensemble has been shown to boost oxytocin levels. Dr. Philip Stieg, neurosurgeon in chief at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center states, “Oxytocin, sometimes called the "love hormone," is released during sexual activity and is what makes you feel bonded to the object of your desire”.

John Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, suggests couples create rituals that involve a hug and kiss every time a spouse leaves for the day and again returns home. Dr. David Schnarch, (1997), author of Passionate Marriage, instituted a couple’s therapy technique called ‘hug until relaxed’.

Not only do higher levels of oxytocin increase mood, but the inverse happens when those levels are low. “Low oxytocin levels have been linked to symptoms of depression, including postpartum depression” (Cleveland Clinic, 2023). Testing oxytocin levels is a simple, 24-hour urine collection.

The Wimbledon Clinic (2023) suggests testing for oxytocin deficiencies may benefit people with the following conditions:

  • Autism

  • Depression

  • Sexual dysfunction, especially erectile dysfunction

  • Migraine

  • Fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndromes

  • Maladaptive stress syndromes

  • Weight loss

  • Osteopenia

  • Low muscle mass

Ask your doctor if you believe you might have an oxytocin deficiency.

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