Oxytocin- The hormone that showers love everywhere

The world celebrated mother’s day on 13th of this month. I should have posted this article on that day to gain some more attention. But again I ask myself, what is the need of remembering our mothers only on a particular day? Is that to take selfies with them to show the world as if we are the best Son(or)Daughter/Mother pair that exist on the entire planet and broadcast them on social media? Hey.. That doesn’t makes sense dude!

Today I’m going to write about something that is closely associated with the term Motherhood– The hormone oxytocin!

Motherhood


Image Source – Pixabay

To put it simply, motherhood is defined in English dictionaries as The state of being a mother. But when we try to decipher this state of being, we can find that motherhood is not just about simply being a mother, It is actually more than that!

Two weeks back our goat gave birth to a little baby goat and I had posted about it on here. I could spot a dramatic change happened to the fundamental behaviour of this new mother. While she had been pregnant, She used to be very rude and would attack me whenever I touch her! Myself and all other famiy members in my home would always keep a safe distance from her out of fear of having to face an attack at anytime. Not that we couldn’t control her, but it was her instinctive behaviour that scared us to a little extent. I was damn sure about this lady goat eventually attacking her own child and showing no sign of motherhood. But my anticipation failed miserably. Infact, she is continuously showering love towards her baby boy by means of licking and nursing!

The goat licking its offspring. A picture taken by me.

This sudden change in her behaviour indeed amazed me a lot and I desperately wanted to know what made her to recognise her own child and shower abundance of love on him! In that search I got to know about this hormone called Oxytocin. If you google it now, you will end up getting a lot of in-depth details about this hormone. But, wait a moment… I am here for that!

While surfing on the internet, few Mother-Child bonds I came cross really fascinated me to the core. Let me share with you some of those facts here.


Some beautiful Mother-Child Relationships


The Elephant


Image Source-Pixabay

Elephants have the longest known gestation period of about 18-22 months. When a calf is born, it suddenly becomes the centre of attention of the entire herd it belongs to. The onus of taking care of the newborn becomes that of everyone present in that group. Moreover, the relationship between the mother and the child remains unbroken for about 12 to 14 years and it is lifelong in the case of the calf is a female. The extraordinary love this mother shows to her child is something very interesting to notice. She will always be indulgent and fuss over her calf. The love hormone plays a vital role in this bonding. Being social in nature, the amount of togetherness the elephants show is none other than epic!


Orangutan


Image Source- Pixabay

That’s the picture of a baby Orangutan enjoying it’s leisure time with its Mother. They are intelligent than many other specieses. The mother& child relationship of orangutans is peculiar. In any circumstances, It is impossible to seperate mother and child for first few months. They sleep, travel and eat together in this period. And baby orangutans are completely dependent on their mothers for first two years. Generally mothers nurse their children for upto 3-4 years but in some cases it is found that the process continues upto 7 years.


Birds feeding their offsprings


Image Source- Pixabay

What a wonderful show of love! Isn’t it? Birds travel miles to collect food. Their offsprings wait in their nests for their mother to come and feed them. Mother bird never forgets to take food to home. It comes back and feeds its gaping offsprings. What makes them to remain so attached? Indeed a variant hormone of oxytocin named mesotocin.


I have used these pictures just for the purpose of representation. Infact, where there is a love there is the presence of the hormone oxytocin. The affection felt during having sex, the love and care that can be spotted between mother and child, friendship, social interactions etc in all these places the intensity of bondage is determined by the amount of oxytocin produced.

Oxytocin


Chemical structure of Oxytocin.
Image Source- Wkicommons, Uploaded by- Calvero, License- Public Domain
 

In a given moment, Oxytocin acts both as a hormone and a neurotransmitter. It is produced in the Hypothalamus and distributed into blood stream through pituitary gland. Oxytocin is produced mainly during the the time of childbirth, breastfeeding, sexual intercourse and while socialising with others. I’m not going to dig deeply into its various aspects since the main focus of this article is to find out the reason why the mothers show so much of love to their kids.

Is there any experiment conducted?


Many experiments were conducted towards obtaining a comprehensive result about the action of Oxytocin. Lion’s share of them surrounded its psychological impact. A recent conclusion made by a scientist named Antony Lane from Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, whose works were based on Oxytocin, has quoted ,

oxytocin does not deserve to be known as a miracle anymore.

Source.

contrary to this conclusion, many experiments have shown that Oxytocin has a positive effect on people and animals when it comes to social bonding and trusting strangers. Such an experiment conducted was explored in a review of research published in 2015. Let me explain the so called Trust game conducted as part of this experiment.

This game constitutes two players. Player 1 will be given with some money and player 2 is at recieving end. Player 1 should give as much money as he is willing to player 2. Then this money is multiplied by 3 and given to the player 2. It is upto player 2 to decide how he would split that money among two. Let me be a bit clear on it with an example. If player 1 has $10 with him, he can decide what percentage of that money he would give to the player 2. If he is willing to give the entire $10 to the 2nd player, it will be multiplied by 3 and $30 will be given to the player 2. Now this person,ie player 2, can decide in what proportion this money can be splitted up. He can make it 50:50 or 100:0 or whatever proportion he may like. To get a maximum gain, the player 1 should trust in the player 2 and give the entire $10 to that person. But he can’t expect the fair share always. That’s where the hormone Oxytocin comes into play.

This trust game is actually an idea of Behavioural Economics. When the person playing player 1 inhaled oxytocin, he tended to spend more money. This didn’t happen in the normal circumstances. Although many contradictory results emerged in repetition of this experiment, one thing for sure is that Oxytocin has a say in the show of trust.


Motherhood and oxytocin


In many animals including human beings, the main function of Oxytocin is associated with their female parts. It helps in the contraction of womb during childbirth and also it is the major player in the process of Lactation.

A white cat nursing four kittens
Image Source-Wikimedia, Author- Rune X2, Licence- CC BY-SA 3.0
 

Oxytocin stimulates the uterine muscles to contract and also increases the production of Prostaglandins, which stimulates the contraction further. In some cases, natural contraction of uterine muscles won’t occur which make the childbirth very difficult. Here, medical practitioners inject artificial oxytocin to make the process hassle free.

As I notified in the beginning, the perpetual love between mother and child happens while they are related to each other for a long period because of the nursing. During Breastfeeding, the contact with the offspring’s mouth stimulates the nipple of the mother which triggers the production of Oxytocin in hypothalamus. Oxytocin helps the mammary gland in the release of enough milk. A peculiar thing about the Production of Oxytocin is that it is controlled by the Positive feedback mechanism. In this mechanism, the release of the hormone causes an action which stimulates more of its own production. So the longivity of love is sustained!

Conclusion


Although many scientific experiments do not support its psychological impact, the hormone oxytocin plays a big role in the behavioral patterns of animals during their motherhood. Many specifications and impacts of oxytocin are still unknown. I hope all who read this have an optimum level of Oxytocin enough to upvote this post!


References

I mainly referred internet for the making of this article. Following are the links to the websites that I referred from. Visit them for further reading.


Posted by Sathya Sankar

I am a mechanical engineer. My passion lies in exploring the depths of Science, History and Agriculture. I'm a professional blogger since last five years. I have sound knowledge in dealing with science and various academic topics.

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